Monday, July 13, 2009

Strange stories about teeth

Here are some strange stories involving teeth. These are not weird news items about people leaving their dentures at the department store. They are about animals and - as always - there is show and tell... A few years ago, a story hit the weird news that a fish with human teeth had been caught in Texas (pictured above). The idea of its creepy anomaly was quickly debunked - it is a pacu and has teeth typical of frugivores and capable of cracking nuts and fruits... A megapiranha fossil originally collected in the early 1900s was rediscovered in a museum drawer in the 1980s and is now believed to be an evolutionary link between flesh-eating piranhas and their plant-eating cousins, the pacus. The pacu has 2 rows of square teeth and the piranha has a single row of triangular teeth, but the Megapiranha had teeth (pictured above) that were something in between - a zigzag pattern... The expression "rare as hen's teeth" stems from the fact that chickens grind their food with gizzards rather than chompers, but scientists have found a naturally-occuring mutant chicken called the Talpid that is equipped with teeth! The talpid specimen was collected 50 years ago, but its crocodilian teeth had not been examined. Now its genes that have lain dormant for 80 million years have been used to induce the growth of teeth in living chickens and may lead to the regrowth of human teeth... A fish, a bird, and now a mammal. This last story is about the slow loris, an Indonesian lemur I mentioned in my post on Prosimians. The slow loris is capable of moving quickly when it is alarmed, but does not jump and usually moves very deliberately. Unfortunately, it has good reasons to get away from its superstitious human predators. It is believed to protect new roads if buried beneath them and is used to prepare traditional medicines. Rather than speed, the slow loris's defense is venom that it stores in an elbow patch - it sucks the poison out and delivers a toxic bite. Illegal traders therefore remove their teeth with wire cutters before selling the live animals. International Animal Rescue has saved 31 toothless slow lorises and is trying to provide them with a healthy diet that they don't have to chew.

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