Dental microwear and dental function


  • Mark F. Teaford

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    • Mark F. Teaford is art associate professor of anatomy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research interests include primate evolution and functional morphology. He has done extensive work on primate tooth wear and morphology using scanning electron microscopy and three-dimensional measuring microscopy. He has worked with museum collections, laboratory animals, dental patients, and primates in the wild, and he has also done paleontological fieldwork at various sites in Kenya, particularly the Miocene sites on Rusinga and Mfangano islands.


Investigators have used many techniques to understand diet and tooth use in prehistoric species. A promising new addition to the analytical arsenal is dental microwear analysis—the study of microscopic wear patterns on teeth. On-going work is proceeding on a number of fronts. Studies of modern animals are showing some of the limits of resolution of the technique, while studies of prehistoric animals are answering many new questions and raising still more in the process. Much work remains to be done, but one thing is clear: if we proceed cautiously, we can provide new insights into the evolution of diet and tooth use.