Science: If These Teeth Could Talk

BY Jenny Marder  April 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM EST


The microscopic scratches and pits found on ancient teeth can be used to reconstruct the diets of human ancestors and ancient animals, science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports in his latest piece for the National Science Foundation’s Science Nation.* Anthropologist Peter Ungar of the University of Arkansas studies the jaws and teeth of such skulls to better understand what they ate, as well as the behavior, migration patterns and evolution of these animals.

Gorillas, for example, have teeth built for hard, crunchy stuff, such nuts and seeds, but prefer softer foods, like fruit, Miles says. But their teeth remain tough for when fruit becomes scarce.

*For the record, the National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.