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Journal Article

Nano-indentation of native phytoliths and dental tissues: implications for herbivore-plant combat and dental wear proxies


Schulz-Kornas,  Ellen       
Max Planck Weizmann Center for integrative Archaeology and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Kaiser, T. M., Braune, C., Kalinka, G., & Schulz-Kornas, E. (2018). Nano-indentation of native phytoliths and dental tissues: implications for herbivore-plant combat and dental wear proxies. Evolutionary Systematics, 2(1), 55-63. doi:10.3897/evolsyst.2.22678.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-6D89-B
Tooth wear induced by abrasive particles is a key process affecting dental function and life expectancy in mammals. Abrasive particles may be plant endogenous opal phytoliths, exogene wind-blown quartz dust or rain borne mineral particles ingested by mammals. Nano-indentation hardness of abrasive particles and dental tissues is a significant yet not fully established parameter of this tribological system. We provide consistent nano-indentation hardness data for some of the major antagonists in the dental tribosystem (tooth enamel, tooth dentine and opaline phytoliths from silica controlled cultivation). All indentation data were gathered from native tissues under stable and controlled conditions and thus maximize comparability to natural systems. Here we show that native (hydrated) wild boar enamel exceeds any hardness measures known for dry herbivore tooth enamel by at least 3 GPa. The native tooth enamel is not necessarily softer then environmental quartz grit, although there is little overlap. The native hardness of the tooth enamel exceeds that of any silica phytolith hardness recently published. Further, we find that native reed phytoliths equal native suine dentine in hardness, but does not exceed native suine enamel. We also find that native suine enamel is significantly harder than dry enamel and dry phytoliths are harder than native phytoliths. Our data challenge the claim that the culprit of tooth wear may be the food we chew, but suggest instead that wear may relates more to exogenous than endogenous abrasives.