Tooth Analysis May Decipher Prehistoric Diets

By Bower, Bruce | Science News, October 20, 1990 | Go to article overview

Tooth Analysis May Decipher Prehistoric Diets


Bower, Bruce, Science News


Tooth analysis may decipher prehistoric diets

Scientists say they have indentified the microscopic "fingerprints" of plant remains on the fossil teeth of Gigantopithecus, a huge Asian ape that lived from 6 million to 300,000 years ago. The evidence suggests that the extinct ape -- which stood an estimated 10 feet tall and weighed more than 1,00 pounds -- ate a varied diet, including both tropical fruits and fibrous grasses. If the dental decoding technique proves accurate, it may one day illuminate the feeding habits of other extint animals, including human ancestors.

For now, analyses of plant residues on fossil teeth remain preliminary, says paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Indeed, several paleontologists argue that no solid evidence links the tiny particles studied bu Ciochon's group to the diet of living or extinct animals.

A scanning electron microscope revealed 30 floral fingerprints, known as phytoliths, on two out of four Gigantopithecus teeth under study, Ciochon and his co-workers report in the October PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (Vol. 87, No. 20). Monosilicic acid travels throughout a plant's vascular system and hardens inside and between the cells to create the phytoliths -- remarkably durable silica impressions of the plant cells. Many plants and all grasses absorb the monosilicic acid as their roots take up groundwater.

"Phytliths are widespread throughout the plant kingdom," says archaeologist and study participant Dolores R. Piperno of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama.

Scientists first identified phytoliths nearly 150 years ago in Germany, and studies of phytoliths found in soil began in the 1950s. Since then, the hardy silica bits have turned up on stone tools un-earthed at several archaeological sites. Piperno has identified phytoliths from more than 1,300 species of tropical plants, mainly in South America, as well as 19 plant species from three families native to a region of China where Gigantopithecus teeth and jaws have been found.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tooth Analysis May Decipher Prehistoric Diets
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.