Topography of Teeth

Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Smithsonian
November 30, 2016
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Computer generated comparison of cheetah and kangaroo teeth
Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Smithsonian

These laser-scanned digital maps of a leopard and wallaby’s teeth visualize information about elevation. By charting the slopes and crags on animals’ teeth as if they were mountain ranges, scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have created a powerful new way to learn about the diets of extinct animals from the fossil record. The new quantitative approach to analyzing dentition, reported Nov. 21 in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, will also give researchers a clearer picture of how animals evolve in response to changes in their environment.

Credit: Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Smithsonian