Image: Paranthropus boisei lower jaw side view

Paranthropus boisei lower jaw side view

Cast of L74, a 2.3-million-year-old lower jaw discovered in Omo, Ethiopia. This fossil is the most massive example of a jaw from this species. The jaws of this species have very small front teeth (incisors and canines) compared with  extremely large molar teeth. The molar teeth were very effective for crushing and grinding tough plant foods.

Carl Bento
© Australian Museum


Interestingly, a 2008 study on tooth wear patterns of Paranthropus boisei revealed light, wispy scratches more similar to the marks on the teeth of modern fruit eaters than those on the teeth of modern primates. This suggests that P. boisei 's huge jaw, massive chewing muscles and flat, tough teeth where not primarliy used to crush tough roots and nuts as was once believed. Tougher plants may have been used as a fallback diet when hard times meant other soft foods were unavailable.

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