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nihil161's avatar

What are our teeth designed for?

Asked by nihil161 (4points) August 5th, 2007

At some point were our teeth evolved to primarily be for vegetation or like for most of our species life, omnivorous?

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8 Answers

Tank8131's avatar

Hmm..don't we have both? I thought our front teeth were used for meat and the back ones used for vegetables. Meat and vegetables is probably a poor word choice...

xgunther's avatar

Well, considering our systems don't handle raw meat well, I would suspect we weren't "programmed" to eat meat. Most of our teeth share similarities with herbivores.

segdeha's avatar

I just read a thread on another site that cited about a gazillion references making the point that humans are "designed" to eat fruit, nuts and "succulent" vegetables. Yeah, we have "canine" teeth, but they're the same length as our other teeth so they're not particularly effective at tearing flesh. Also, our teeth are not strong enough to allow us to crack open bones (which true carnivores do to get at the nutrient-rich marrow). We do eat meat, but only when cooked, so that's like cheating. Frugivores is the term for it. Most primates are frugivores, and we are, too.

gooch's avatar

our teeth are designed for crushing(molars) and tearing(inscisors). Our acient diet would have been vegetables. If you are a Bible person - prior to Adam and Eve's sin there was no death and that included animals. They ate from the garden of Edan. If your an eveolutionist - the answer is still the same. Acient man gathered nuts and fruits. Later he began to hunt.

joli's avatar

This is a stretch but I think I read somewhere that it was during the ice age we began to hunt animals since all plant matter had died. It was at that time we developed larger jaws and third molars to grind the meat. Now it is opposite and our jaws are small again, too small to accomodate the third back molars.

aejeus's avatar

some say our jaw structure is ideal for breaking open large insects.

But aside from the mouth, if you examine the human gastro-intestinal system you’ll find that it doesn’t handle the breakdown of heavy nitrogenous food material very efficiently. Compare our digestion to that of a dog or other true omnivore. We’re definitely not herbivores either.

What do chimps and gorillas eat? I think that might be the way we had been eating for millions of years.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Chimps, our closest genetic relatives, eat a diet that is a vast majority of plant matter (fruits and such). They supplement their mostly vegetarian diet by hunting and eating small animals.

If you’re looking at what our ancestors’ diets were like, it depends on how far back you want to go. Originally, our oldest ancestors were tree-dwelling vegetarians, but as the lush forests of Africa dried up and died back, it forced a move to the ground. This began the shift in diet, brain size, locomotion, and everything else that makes us uniquely human.

We have canine teeth that are meant for ripping meat, incisors for cutting and chopping, and molars for grinding. Based on our dental configuration, it’s easy to see we are meant to be omnivores. In addition to this, our brain size and function takes up a significant portion of the body’s energy and there is definitely a correlation over our evolutionary path that increased meat eating has directly influenced increased brain size.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

we could argue this for weeks and both sides, the omnivores and the vegans will find something to back up their claims. Personally, I think our teeth are designed to rot, crack and fall out of our mouths before we reach the end of our lives. Mine did, due to a diet high in sugar and genetic predisposition for thin enamel. My teeth are now plastic, and spend about a third of their time soaking in a solution made to keep them clean that smells like mint.

I will use my fake plastic teeth to eat what I like, what I want, and I feel no need to justify my diet to anyone. Life is about choices, and what my ancestors ate really doesn’t matter to me, since they are not here to question the validity of my diet.

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