Ancient Sperm Whale Tooth Found in Australia

sperm whale tooth photo
Photo by Ryan Biracree

“I thought it was the bottom of a fizzy drink can at first,” Murray Orr, an Australian fossil hunter nearly chalked up a big discovery to simple litter. Luckily, his inquisitive mind wouldn’t let him pass by the object without further investigation. He stumbled upon a 5 million year old whale tooth that was about a foot long and weighed in at about six and a half pounds. If it sounds big, that’s because it is; this sperm whale tooth is actually bigger than Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth! Scientists are fascinated because this is the first ancient sperm whale tooth that was found outside of the west coast of North and South America, but I find myself drawn to something else entirely.

What Sperm Whale Tooth Means for Diet

If you were to look at sperm whale teeth today you would never guess that this long, curved tooth belong to its ancient ancestor. While modern sperm whales definitely have large, similarly curved teeth, they typically only reach about eight inches in length. This reflects their diet which consists of squid and fish. Ancient sperm whales, which were believed to reach some 60 feet in length and 40 tons, had a diet that consisted of other whales. Obviously, their diet required any extra gripping and tearing power that they could get and so larger, sharper teeth were a necessity.

We can actually use this information to reflect on how our teeth affect our diet. Our mouths are actually great wonders of nature if you think about it. Unlike sperm whale teeth, our teeth vary drastically in form which is a reflection of our wide diet as omnivores. Molars and premolars have a large flat biting surface which is ideal for crushing and grinding food. Canines, which share some similarity to the shape of sperm whale teeth, are great for gripping and tearing food. Our sharp incisors are ideal for slicing food into smaller pieces.

Dental Health is Important for Tooth Function

This may go without saying, but your teeth won’t function as they should if you are in poor oral health. Tooth decay can seriously damage your dental enamel which impedes the structural soundness of your teeth. While minor cavities can be filled, if the damage is severe enough the only recourse would be to either cap the tooth with a dental crown or to extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant.

While Dr. Matthews can help patients who are dealing with advanced tooth decay, prevention is always better than replacement. You should make an effort to regularly visit your dentist in order to protect and maintain your natural teeth. If you live in the Austin area and are looking for a great dentist, please give us a call at (512) 520-0606 to schedule an appointment at Dan Matthews, DDS today.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
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Austin, Texas, 78746
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