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Bone Crushers: Teeth reveal changing times in the Pleistocene

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9:04am, July 24, 2002

Many carnivores enjoy a good piece of meat, a slab of fat, a liver, perhaps a kidney from a fresh kill, but they tend to leave the bones behind. When the pickings are slim, however, they'll chomp the bones and suck out the marrow, a practice that can break the diner's teeth.

Tooth-fracture incidence among carnivores in the fossil record can indicate how much bone the animals crunched and, therefore, something about the ecology of their time. A new study suggests, surprisingly, that dire wolves, Canis dirus, experienced less tooth breakage as they neared extinction.

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