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Project Information

COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: INTEGRATIVE ANALYSIS OF INGESTIVE BIOMECHANICS AND DENTAL MICROWEAR IN EVOLUTIONARY AND ECOLOGICAL CONTEXT

Agency:
NSF

National Science Foundation

Project Number:
1440541
Contact PI / Project Leader:
SCOTT, ROBERT S
Awardee Organization:
RUTGERS THE ST UNIV OF NJ NEW BRUNSWICK

Description

Abstract Text:
Modern humans exhibit small teeth, lightly built jaws and weak chewing muscles - anatomical features which have been shaped by evolutionary processes related to dietary intake and the processing of foods. The fossil record demonstrates that our morphology stands in contrast to that of our ancestors, who evolved to have large, strong teeth, massive jaws and powerful chewing muscles. Evolutionary explanations for this change include competing hypotheses as to how natural selection on diet drove adaptation over the course of human evolution. These hypotheses suggest that the presence or absence of either very hard or very tough foods may have been a critical factor influencing the evolution of our ancestors. Alternatively, the hardness or toughness of foods may have been less important than the behaviors (i.e., biting, puncturing, crushing, twisting, grinding) used to process foods of various shape and size with the jaws and teeth. This project will provide evidence to differentiate between these selective scenarios, thereby contributing to a fuller understanding of the evolutionary processes that have shaped this important aspect of modern human anatomy.

This research will require focus on a primate model, South American capuchins, which exhibit the relevant diversity in musculoskeletal anatomy and diet requisite to testing hypotheses regarding how food properties (i.e., hardness, toughness) or feeding behaviors influence the evolution of feeding adaptations. The study integrates observations of capuchin feeding behavior in the wild with laboratory experiments, advanced computer modeling using engineering methods, examination of the microscopic damage done to teeth by food and other items (i.e., dental microwear), the determination of the material properties (i.e., hardness, toughness) of food resources in the wild, and the collection and analysis of abrasive particles adhering to those foods (that might be influencing microwear patterns). Collectively, these data in capuchins will allow us to evaluate the assumptions underlying our interpretations of the interrelationships between dietary behavior, food resources, and the biology of our human ancestors, thereby transforming our understanding of human evolutionary history.

The broader impacts of this research are considerable. In relation to the public understanding of science, the research provides information that will address a topic of great public interest; namely, our own evolutionary history. As a related benefit, the project illustrates how ecological factors affecting other animals may be equally relevant and impactful for our own species. In terms of STEM training, research training opportunities are provided for high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are expected (based on past history at the collaborating institutions) to be young female scientists. The project also contributes to environmental awareness by collecting basic ecological data relevant to rainforest conservation. In the process of doing so, it further develops collaborative ties with international counterparts and institutions. Lastly, the project illustrates to the engineering community how their methods can be used to answer evolutionary questions.
Project Terms:
Address; Affect; Anatomy; Animals; Awareness; base; Behavior; behavior influence; Biology; Biomechanics; Bite; Capuchin Monkey; Collection; Communities; Computer Simulation; Data; Dental; Diet; Dietary intake; Engineering; Evolution; Exhibits; feeding; Feeding behaviors; Female; Food; Food Processing; food resource; Fossils; graduate student; Hardness; High School Student; Human; Institution; interest; International; Jaw; Laboratories; Mastication; Methods; Microscopic; Modeling; Morphology; Muscle; Musculoskeletal; Natural Selections; particle; Pattern; Postdoctoral Fellow; Primates; Process; Property; Puncture procedure; Recording of previous events; Research; research study; Research Training; Science; Scientist; Shapes; South American; stem; Testing; Tooth structure; Training

Details

Contact PI / Project Leader Information:
Name:  SCOTT, ROBERT S
Other PI Information:
Not Applicable
Awardee Organization:
Name:  RUTGERS THE ST UNIV OF NJ NEW BRUNSWICK
City:  NEW BRUNSWICK    
Country:  UNITED STATES
Congressional District:
State Code:  NJ
District:  06
Other Information:
Fiscal Year: 2014
Award Notice Date: 22-Aug-2014
DUNS Number: 001912864
Project Start Date: 15-Sep-2014
Budget Start Date:
CFDA Code: 47.075
Project End Date: 31-Aug-2017
Budget End Date:
Agency: ?

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National Science Foundation
Project Funding Information for 2014:
Year Agency

Agency: The entity responsible for the administering of a research grant, project, or contract. This may represent a federal department, agency, or sub-agency (institute or center). Details on agencies in Federal RePORTER can be found in the FAQ page.

FY Total Cost
2014 NSF

National Science Foundation

$46,587

Results

i

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