Turns out that the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) has teeth 2.5 times tougher than human teeth. Whilst this might not be an immediate surprise, their diet of shelled invertebrates (clams, crabs, urchins etc) would rapidly lead to a dentist visit for you and me. What makes them so tough? Extra layers of protein gel in the enamel protects against cracking. The comparison between the Sea Otter's teeth and the human dentition reminded me of a 19th Century cartoon: Awful Changes. Man Found only in a Fossil State
See it here:
Whilst the original cartoon lampooned Charles Lyell and his idea of cyclical geological time (hence Ichthyosaurs studying humans), the idea of how future species might view our "insignificant teeth and the trifling power of our jaws" amused me. Not just compared to the (mighty) Sea Otter, but also considering humans as a predatory species. Our lack of pointy teeth, powerful jaws or savage claws has not stopped us having a pronounced impact on global wildlife. Take for example the end-Pleistocene megafauna extinction - humans are one possible cause. More on this in another post, maybe!
Sea otters, which often dine on clams, crabs, and other shelled creatures, have unusually chip-resistant teeth, a new study suggests. Lab tests show that the enamel coating the teeth of sea otters (Enhydra lutris, shown) is up to two-and-a-half times tougher than human tooth enamel, thanks largely to the enamel’s microstructure.