Sink your teeth into this one


The lastest special edition of Science reveals some interesting findings about an archeological find of what looks like the last common ancestor of chimps and humans. Looks like female power to mate with non-aggressive more cooperative  males may have resulted  in our becoming upright so we males could be more helpful carrying stuff 🙂  The article provides a better explanation. She is called Ardipethicus, or Ardi for short. Females began going for males that had duller teeth. Chimps tend to have sharper teeth to aid them in their battles for mates. It is interesting speculation.

It made me think some about the female attraction to vampires today. There is a huge market for vampire movies and books. Are females longing for the good old days when men used their teeth on each other to win a female’s favor? Worthy of note though is the fact that  these movie vampires don’t show their fangs all the time. That would be ugly and unattractive. But having flexible teeth that can get sharp and deadly at will, then dull and more human-like, that is the ultimate prize. Women could have it both ways.

Our teeth are very important to our social interaction, including attracting a mate. Imagine flirting without smiling. Imagine walking into a room and saying ‘hi’  but refusing to show your teeth at all. People think your pissed or depressed. We also spend millions in this country on medically unnecessary procedures for straightening of our teeth. As a society, we know how much is at stake when we open our mouth, even if we don’t say a word.  In contrast to humans, when a monkey shows its teeth, it often means it is angry and potentially dangerous. So teeth make a difference, as the excerpt from the Time article shows. Maybe they made all the difference in our evolution too.

Lovejoy thinks Ar. ramidus had a social system found in no other primates except humans. Among gorillas and chimps, males viciously fight other males for the attention of females. But among Ardipithecus, says Lovejoy, males may have abandoned such competition, opting instead to pair-bond with females and stay together in order to rear their offspring (though not necessarily monogamously or for life). The evidence of this harmonious existence comes from, of all things, Ardipithecus’ teeth: its canine teeth are relatively stubby compared with the sharp, dagger-like upper fangs that male chimps and gorillas use to do battle. “The male canine tooth,” says Lovejoy, “is no longer projecting or sharp. It’s no longer weaponry.” That suggests that females mated preferentially with smaller-fanged males. In order for females to have had so much power, Lovejoy argues, Ar. ramidus must have developed a social system in which males were cooperative. Males probably helped females, and their own offspring, by foraging for and sharing food, for example — a change in behavior that could help explain why bipedality arose. Carrying food is difficult in the woods, after all, if you can’t free up your forelimbs by walking erect.

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1927200-1,00.html

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