Study finds sea otter tooth enamel more than twice as tough as ours
Sea otter dental enamel is highly resistant to chipping due to its microstructure
Ziscovici et al. Biol Lett 2014 10 (10), p. 20140484
Dental enamel is prone to damage by chipping with large hard objects at forces that depend on chip size and enamel toughness. Experiments on modern human teeth have suggested that some ante-mortem chips on fossil hominin enamel were produced by bite forces near physiological maxima. Here, we show that equivalent chips in sea otter enamel require even higher forces than human enamel. Increased fracture resistance correlates with more intense enamel prism decussation, often seen also in some fossil hominins. It is possible therefore that enamel chips in such hominins may have formed at even greater forces than currently envisaged.