Peter W. Lucas

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The considerable variation in shape, size, structure and properties of the enamel cap covering mammalian teeth is a topic of great evolutionary interest. No existing theories explain how such variations might be fit for the purpose of breaking food particles down. Borrowing from engineering materials science, we use principles of fracture and deformation of(More)
The divergent molar characteristics of Pan troglodytes and Pongo pygmaeus provide an instructive paradigm for examining the adaptive form-function relationship between molar enamel thickness and food hardness. Although both species exhibit a categorical preference for ripe fruit over other food objects, the thick enamel and crenulated occlusal surface of(More)
The wear of teeth is a major factor limiting mammalian lifespans in the wild. One method of describing worn surfaces, dental microwear texture analysis, has proved powerful for reconstructing the diets of extinct vertebrates, but has yielded unexpected results in early hominins. In particular, although australopiths exhibit derived craniodental features(More)
Leaf mechanical properties strongly influence leaf lifespan, plant-herbivore interactions, litter decomposition and nutrient cycling, but global patterns in their interspecific variation and underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We synthesize data across the three major measurement methods, permitting the first global analyses of leaf mechanics(More)
The seeds in fruits consumed by primates may be chewed and digested, swallowed and defecated intact, or separated from the flesh and spat out. We show by a combination of close field observations and experiments with caged animals, that long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) have a remarkably low threshold of 3–4 mm for swallowing seeds and also that(More)
The rate of breakdown of food in mastication depends on the ratio of two mechanical properties of the food--the toughness and modulus of elasticity (Agrawal et al., 1997)--a result which can be predicted by an analysis of the energetics of fracture. The work input to produce food fragmentation is provided by the masticatory muscles, the activity levels of(More)
Evolution of the red-green visual subsystem in trichromatic primates has been linked to foraging advantages, namely the detection of either ripe fruits or young leaves amid mature foliage. We tested competing hypotheses globally for eight primate taxa: five with routine trichromatic vision, three without. Routinely trichromatic species ingested leaves that(More)
The diet of early human ancestors has received renewed theoretical interest since the discovery of elevated δ13C values in the enamel of Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus. As a result, the hominin diet is hypothesized to have included C4 grass or the tissues of animals which themselves consumed C4 grass. On mechanical grounds, such a diet(More)
The African Plio-Pleistocene hominins known as australopiths evolved a distinctive craniofacial morphology that traditionally has been viewed as a dietary adaptation for feeding on either small, hard objects or on large volumes of food. A historically influential interpretation of this morphology hypothesizes that loads applied to the premolars during(More)