Chew, mash, crunch, grind... oh, the things we do with our teeth! AAAS Fellow Peter Ungar finds teeth facinating, "the product of half a billion years of evolution." Ungar is a paleoanthropologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Arkansas. Ungar studies the tooth shape and patterns of use-wear (microscopic scratches and pits that form on a tooth's surface as the result of its use) on a wide varity of animals, apes and primates, dinosaurs and Neandertals, and our own distant ancestors.
In his recently published book, Teeth: A Very Short Introduction, Ungar provides insight into the origins of human and mammalian teeth. He looks at tooth size, shape, structure, wear and makeup to chart their development, and shows how recent changes to human diet are now affecting dental health. Ungar also demonstrates how fossil teeth are helping to fill in important gaps in the paleontological record.
Listen to Ungar read selections from the book.
A new series of radiocarbon measurements from Japan’s Lake Suigetsu should help make radiocarbon dating more precise and accurate, especially for older objects, researchers report.
The work could be used to refine estimates of the ages of organic material by hundreds of years. Archaeologists, for example, may be able to further specify the timing of the extinction of Neandertals or the spread of modern humans into Europe. And climate scientists may better understand the chains of events that led to the advance and retreat of the ice sheets during the last glacial period.