Entre alguns macacos, os dentes são para tempos difíceis

quinta-feira, dezembro 24, 2009

Among Apes, Teeth Are Made for the Toughest Times

ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2009) — The teeth of some apes are formed primarily to handle the most stressful times when food is scarce, according to new research performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The findings imply that if humanity is serious about protecting its close evolutionary cousins, the food apes eat during these tough periods -- and where they find it -- must be included in conservation efforts.

What's a biological anthropologist from George Washington University doing teamed with a National Institute of Standards and Technology materials researcher? Together, they study the teeth of great apes to support the theory that ape teeth and jaws have evolved to handle fallback foods, the diet that apes follow when their primary foods are unavailable. (Credit: NIST Public Affairs Office)

The interdisciplinary team, which brought together anthropologists from George Washington University (GWU) and fracture mechanics experts from NIST, has provided the first evidence that natural selection in three ape species has favored individuals whose teeth can most easily handle the "fallback foods" they choose when their preferred fare is less available. All of these apes -- gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees -- favor a diet of fruit whenever possible. But when fruit disappears from their usual foraging grounds, each species responds in a different way -- and has developed teeth formed to reflect the differences.

"It makes sense if you think about it," says GWU's Paul Constantino. "When resources are scarce, that's when natural selection is highly active in weeding out the less fit, so animals without the necessary equipment to get through those tough times won't pass on their genes to the next generation."

In this case, the necessary equipment is the right set of molars. The team examined ape tooth enamel and found that several aspects of molar shape and structure can be explained in terms of adapting to eat fallback foods. For instance, gorillas' second choice is leaves and tree bark, which are much tougher than fruit, while orangutans fall back to nuts and seeds, which are comparatively hard.

Read more here/Leia mais aqui.

Journal Reference:

American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2009; 140 (4): 653 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21096

The importance of fallback foods in primate ecology and evolution

Paul J. Constantino 1 *, Barth W. Wright 2

1Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

2Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Department of Anatomy, Kansas City, MO

email: Paul J. Constantino (pcma@gwu.edu)

*Correspondence to Paul J. Constantino, Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, 2110 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20052, USA

diet • niche • keystone


The role of fallback foods in shaping primate ranging, socioecology, and morphology has recently become a topic of particular interest to biological anthropologists. Although the use of fallback resources has been noted in the ecological and primatological literature for a number of decades, few attempts have been made to define fallback foods or to explore the utility of this concept for primate evolutionary biologists and ecologists. As a preface to this special issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology devoted to the topic of fallback foods in primate ecology and evolution, we discuss the development and use of the fallback concept and highlight its importance in primatology and paleoanthropology. AmJ Phys Anthropol 140:599-602, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Received: 30 September 2008; Accepted: 24 October 2008




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