Wondering what’s happening in the world of teeth? We’ve got the latest stories covered for you. Read on for more information!
Ancient Fossil, Modern Teeth
A primitive animal who appears to have modern teeth has been unearthed by paleontologists in Japan.
The pint-size creature, named Sasayamamylos kawaii for the geologic formation in Japan where it was found, is from the early Cretaceous period and is thought to be about 112 million years old.
The jaw sports pointy, sharp teeth and molars in a proportion similar to that found in modern mammals, said paleontologist Brian Davis of Missouri Southern State University, who was not involved in the study.
“This little critter, Sasayamamylos, is the oldest Eutherian mammal to demonstrate what paleontologists consider the modern dental formula in placental mammals,” Davis said.
Sasayamamylos’ jaw contained four sharp, pointy teeth known as pre-molars and three molars with complex ridges. This is considered the modern placental mammal tooth pattern, whereas earlier mammals have more of the sharp, pointy teeth.
The teeth probably allowed Sasayamamylos to poke through the hard exoskeletons of beetles or other insects, and in general, molars probably allowed these primitive mammals to chew their food well, extracting as much energy as possible from it.
“Especially these little bitty guys, they’re burning energy like crazy,” Davis said.
A “Mammoth” Discovery
Mike and Padi Anderson’s New Hampshire fishing trawler dug up quite an unusual find.
Buried in a pile of scallop shells and rocks picked up in the boat’s nets was something that appeared to be an enormous tooth!
It wasn’t immediately clear who the tooth had belonged to, but Dr. William Clyde, a geologist at the University of New Hampshire, thought that it might just be a very rare example of a mammoth tooth.
Turns out he was correct! In fact, two mammoth experts have now confirmed the fossil find. Professor Daniel Fisher, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan, said:
“This is indeed a mammoth tooth, and quite possibly from a woolly mammoth. The angle at which the photos provided were taken makes it a little tricky to identify which tooth, but it could be a lower first molar. Finding such teeth offshore from New England is not all that uncommon. During much of the part of the ice age when these animals were moderately common in this part of North America, sea levels were lower than they are now, and much of what is now the continental shelf was dry land and home to mammoths, along with other Pleistocene fauna.”
Professor Adrian Lister, a researcher at London’s Natural History Museum, agreed, saying: “It looks like a badly corroded but recognisable molar tooth of a mammoth, probably woolly mammoth.”
What’s next? Mike hopes he’ll come across a mammoth tusk. “That would be something,” he said.
–Dr. Shannon Norman-Kotre, Ann Arbor Dentist