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Specialized teeth wear down but remain effective: grazing animals


Elk jaw showing enamel, dentine, cementum / npatterson / LicenseCC-by-nc-nd - Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives

The teeth of grazing mammals wear down but not smooth because of a side-by-side layered arrangement of enamel, dentine, and cementum.

"Grazing has perhaps elicited the most dramatic dental specializations in mammals. About twenty million years ago, grasses and grasslands appeared on earth. Grass (and, incidentally, wood) provides poor fodder. It yields little energy relative to its mass, so a grazer has to process huge volumes. Much of that energy comes as chemically inert cellulose, which mammals hydrolyze only by enlisting symbiotic microorganisms in rumen or intestine. It's full of abrasive stuff like silicon dioxide and has lengthwise fibers that demand cross-wise chewing rather than rapid tearing. Long-lived grazers, concomitantly, have especially special teeth, with their components typically layered side by side, as in figure 16.5b. This odd-looking arrangement ensures that, while teeth may wear downthey won't wear smooth. The harder material (enamel, most particularly) will continue to protrude as the softer materials (cementum and dentine) wear down between them." (Vogel 2003:333)
About the inspiring organism
Med_2866168914_86fc730413_b Mammalia

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Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: A better machete; agricultural implements for tilling of harvesting; composite materials; incorporate "wear" analysis and design and manufacture (and run your business) accordingly.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Agricultural tools, manufacturing, materials science, business

Vogel S. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
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