Browsing through a few science news web pages this afternoon, it dawned on me that there was a lot of information on two subjects. Frogs and teeth...even a fanged frog! The evolution of teeth suddenly became very interesting and I was overwhelmed with articles and battling with myself as to which article to read next. They all resonated the same message though: you are what you eat!
Teeth are extremely important, they are the tools to help us, as well as many other species, eat. They cut and grind food, but not all teeth are alike, and evolution has played a huge role in determining tooth size and shape. Scientists are able to observe various teeth shapes to determine diets and hypothesize about competition, dating back to the era of dinosaurs and older. Recent studies have shared that multituberculates, rodent-like mammals, that lived during the era of dinosaurs may have been able to use their teeth to outcompete dinosaurs since their teeth developed complex cusps that allowed them to devour newly spudding angiosperms, even accounting for increased body size from about the size of a mouse, eventually evolving to the size of beavers. Multituberculates, despite their toothy advantage, wouldn't last long as primates and other mammals developed similar complex back teeth (i.e. molars) and simpler front teeth, allowing for breaking down abundant vegetation and eventually multituberculates became extinct too.
Millions of years prior to dinosaurs existed, conodonts floated through the sea, vertebrates whose skeleton lies within their mouth. Scientists have measured their razor sharp teeth as the 'sharpest dental structures ever' but they are only 2 micrometers long! Despite lacking jaws, their sharpened weapons allowed them to attack with intense pressure in order to eat. Humans and other mammals, however, developed jaws and less complex, smoother teeth, such as molars, to increase force. Carnivorous animals, however, mimic conodonts, so that their sharp teeth can plow through meat and insects.
Of course, I could go on an on about evolution and teeth, but as stated before, the evolution of teeth is because we are what we eat. So next time you struggle with something chewy, tough or painful to your teeth, remember that millions of years development influenced the shape of your chompers today, and maybe it just wasn't meant to eat.
Karen-Maria Melendez Group C