The effect of tooth shape on the breakdown of insects



This study investigates the effect of tooth sharpness on the force and energy necessary for a tooth to divide foods of differing physical properties. The material properties of foods are likely to affect the shape that is best to divide them. In order to test the effect of sharpness on a tooth's proficiency in dividing insect prey, experiments involving penetrating and driving through insect prey of differing physical properties were carried out using specially designed punches that varied in tip- and cusp-sharpness. A refinement of tooth measurements which are relevant to their effectiveness in penetrating and driving through food is expounded. ‘Tip-sharpness’ is defined as the radius of curvature at the tip of a cusp. ‘Cusp-sharpness’ is defined as the volume or surface area of the tooth per unit distance from the tip of a cusp. The experiments show that tooth shape is important in the force and energy needed for teeth to penetrate and drive through insects. Also, the scale of teeth is important – teeth of the same shape but different size vary in their effectiveness to divide foods.