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> Animal Teeth
post Aug 21 2006, 12:21 AM
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You wrote at one point that Mike could tell the difference between fox teeth and sea lion teeth. Out of curiosity, how does a person differentiate between the two?
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post Sep 3 2006, 08:52 AM
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Good question! I had wondered that for some time myself, but Mike explained to me the basics of how he does this (some of it is just a lot of experience and looking at THOUSANDS of teeth) and he has also helped me create this picture to demonstrate the difference:

IPB Image

On the left is a picture of two jawbones, one from a fox and one from a sea otter. On the right is a picture of just the molars of the same two animals. We didn't have a good example of sea lion teeth available, but this will give you the same idea.

So I will give you some clues about how you can learn about an animal by looking at its teeth and then you can see if you can tell which ones in the picture belong with each animal.

First clue - in simple terms, animal teeth are adapted to match the types of foods that they eat. If an animal mostly eats plants (herbivores), then it has teeth that are more useful for grinding up the plants. If an animal mostly eats other animals (carnivores), then its teeth are better adapted to ripping and tearing the meat and cracking bones. If an animal eats both (omnivores), then it would have some of both of these specialized teeth. Humans fall into the last category and we have teeth both for ripping and for chewing. This matching of tooth form to function is a part of how the animals have evolved and adapted to their environment.

Second clue - Sea otters eat mostly marine invertebrates and crustaceans, like sea urchins, crabs, and mollusks. Foxes, on the other hand, eat small mammals, birds, eggs, rodents and anything else that they can scavenge.
So using these two clues can you tell which jaw bone and teeth belong to which animal and give some good evidence to support your conclusion?

I will post the answer to this riddle tomorrow or the next day.

Mrs. N-O
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