How Do Hyenas Chew Bones Without Shattering Their Own Teeth? – #365papers – 2018 – 29

Rensberger and Wang, 2005, Microstructural reinforcement in the canine enamel of the hyaenid Crocuta crocuta, the felid Puma concolor, and the Late Miocene canid Borophagus secundus: Journal of Mammalian Evolution, v. 12, p. 379-403.

What’s it about?

Hyenas break bones with their teeth. Mountain lions do not. If a mountain lion tried to break a bone with its teeth, it is likely to break a tooth instead. Evidence for bone breaking in mammal carnivores is seen in the shape of the jaw and the arrangement of jaw musculature. Based on this, it appears that the fossil carnivore Borophagus was also a bone breaker. The authors here discuss evidence from the microstructure of tooth enamel that shows differences between bone crushing and non bone crushing mammals. They compare the structure of the teeth of Borophagus with these differences to show that Borophagus probably was also a bone crushing carnivore.

Why does it matter?

Looks can sometimes be deceiving. It is good to have more than one line of evidence to support an interpretation – in this case that Borophagus is a bone crushing carnivore. Now, all paleontologists need is part of a tooth to determine if the mammal to which it belonged was a bone crushing mammal.

Why did I read this?

I have a passing interest in tooth enamel microstructure. Teeth are remarkably complex. If only I had more time…


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