Tag Archives: teeth

Digging for Dinos

Who doesn’t like digging for dinos? I had the chance this summer to go on a real-life, honest to goodness dinosaur dig in the Oklahoma Panhandle. It was in Black Mesa near Kenton, OK. That’s about thisclose to the New Mexico and Colorado state lines.

I was a guest of Dr. Anne Weil of the OSU Center for Health Sciences. (She’s been featured before here, here, and here.) The dig was part of the ExplorOlogy program run through the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. ExplorOlogy is all about helping Oklahoma students and teachers get a hands on look at the wonderful world of science. The kids spend the night in the Sam Noble Museum, they get an up close look at the OKC Zoo, and they go work in the field on actual science expeditions.

The dinosaur dig in Black Mesa is an example. The students were helping dig up some Apatosaurus bones. That was a huge dinosaur most of us grew up calling a Brontosaurus.

In addition to digging up the dinosaurs the students went hiking and took a census of the local insects in Black Mesa (video to come!!).

I can’t thank Dr. Weil and the staff at the Sam Noble Museum enough for letting me tag along.

If you know a student who is interested on going next summer click here to learn more about the program and how you can register.

 

Ancient Dental Plaque

A University of Oklahoma scientist is perfecting the art (and by art I mean science) of studying ancient dental plaque. We’ve highlighted Dr. Christina Warinner before when her research gained national recognition. Now she’s featured in a fantastic video produced by Illumina. The company describes itself as, “a leading developer, manufacturer, and marketer of life science tools and integrated systems for large-scale analysis of genetic variation and function.” 

Dr. Warinner likes to say she’s an “archaeologist of the invisible”. She studies the dental plaque from teeth that are thousands of years old. Bacteria covers that dental plaque, from that she’s able to learn all kinds of things about the person who once used that tooth. Where they lived, what they ate, whether they were healthy or not, etc…

This video is an amazing look inside the process.

New Dinosaur Discovered

Illustration by Gabriel Lio

Illustration by Gabriel Lio

A new dinosaur has been discovered and it has paleontologists excited because it belongs to a lineage of herbivores that no one knew existed. It’s called Chilesaurus diegosuareziIts name comes from the country where it was found, combined with the name of the seven year old boy who discovered it.

Chilesaurus was a theropod but, unlike most other theropods, it was a plant eater. It’s also unusual because it had characteristics of other dinosaurs but it belonged to a separate group of dinos. Martin Ezcurra is one of the scientists who worked on the project. He describes Chilesaurus like this, “Its skull and neck look like those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs like Plateosaurus; the vertebrae resemble those of primitive meat-eating theropods such as Dilophosaurus; the pelvis is very similar to that of ornithischian dinosaurs such as Iguanodon; and the hand has only two well-developed fingers as in Tyranosaurus Rex, but with a longer arm.” 

Click here to read more of Ezcurra’s description of the ID process. This article has a great picture of the Chilesaurus’ fossilized teeth.

Brian Switek has a fantastic article on the discovery here.

And here’s a writeup from National Geographic.

This Scientist is OK- Dr. Anne Weil

Dr. Anne Weil is a vertebrate paleontologist at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa. Her specialty is looking at a “lost branch of mammalia” called multituberculates. They lived roughly 180 to 30 million years ago. Here’s an example.

She started college wanting to be a novelist but soon found herself taking geology and paleontology courses. Next thing you know she’s paleontologist researching fossilized mammal teeth.

She’s an OK scientist.

This is why your child needs braces

Ever wonder what’s up with crooked teeth? I mean, why don’t our teeth fit in our mouth? A recent report in the journal PLOS ONE says you can blame the switch to farming by our ancestors.

This article sums it up nicely. It includes some pictures that really show the difference.

The first humans were hunter-gatherers. They just fought it and killed it and ate it. They didn’t grow it and they didn’t cook it. The report says their teeth and jaws fit together perfectly. That’s how they evolved, big jaws were needed to chew their tough, uncooked food. As farming was developed and the food became more processed and not near as tough, humans didn’t need those big jaws so the jaws became smaller but the teeth stayed the same.

This is just one more example of how evolution works. Nature makes do with what it has. It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal. It just is what it is. Our teeth evolved to fit a different sized jaw and now we have to fork out thousands of dollars for braces to get it fixed.

Medieval Dental Plaque Gets OU Researcher Top Honors

Research conducted by a University of Oklahoma anthropology professor has been named one of the top 100 stories of the year by Discover Magazine.

Christina Warinner directed a study of dental plaque from four Medieval skeletons. She published her research in Nature this past February. Discover Magazine was so impressed it’s ranked it the 69th best science story of the year and will feature it in an article in its January/February issue of the top 100 stories of of 2014.

According to OU, Warinner’s study found evidence of ancient DNA from wheat, pork, mutton, and a plant belonging to the mustard family. She also found ancient protein from cattle, sheep, and goat milk.

 

courtesy: University of Oklahoma

Photo credit: Malin Holst, courtesy: University of Oklahoma

The picture above shows a human jawbone that dates to the 1st-4th century from York, UK. Dr. Warinner doesn’t know the sex but says the person was in their 20s or 30s when they died. You can clearly see the build-up of dental plaque on the teeth. Dr. Warinner says this particular example tested positive of milk proteins.

Warinner wrote an article for CNN in 2012 explaining what she does and why it’s so important. “By extracting DNA from ancient human bones, we can reconstruct the human genome at different times in the past and look for differences that might be related to adaptations, risk factors, or inherited diseases,” she wrote. Adding, “The aim is to better understand the evolutionary vulnerabilities of the human body so that we can better manage and improve our health in the future.”

Want more with some cool illustrations? Here she is giving a presentation at TED in 2012.