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Life sciences/Organismal biology/Animals/Vertebrates/Mammals

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.

Electrical brain activity measured in bearded dragons suggests these patterns evolved in the common ancestor of mammals, birds, and reptiles.