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Keywords:

  • dentition;
  • molar morphology;
  • food texture;
  • hardness;
  • biomechanics

Abstract

For decades, natural historians and comparative anatomists have acknowledged the form/function relationship between an animal's dentition and its food. Historically, anthropologists have cited this relationship to explain adaptations observed in modern species as well as to infer the diets of extinct animals found in the fossil record. Anthropologists have described morphological differences between species that permit dietary niche partitioning which allows closely related primates to co-exist within a single ecosystem. For example, Robinson1 postulated that the anatomical differences between Australopithecus and Paranthropus are the result of their adaptations to different diets. Jolly's2 seed-eating hypothesis suggested that early hominids' morphological divergence from apes resulted from their specialized feeding on small and hard grass seeds. Early work by Kay3 suggested that Sivapithecus' thick molar enamel was an adaptation to habitually eating resistant food items such as hard nuts or seeds enclosed in tough pods.