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

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Tooth Analysis May Decipher Prehistoric Diets
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.