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Biologic and Materials Sciences & Prosthodontics

Gerstner Lab

My research presently has two foci: (1) Comparative masticatory studies. Mammalian chewing is wonderfully diverse in kinematic form both within and between species; however, the chewing rhythm is surprisingly invariant in mammals. I am interested in understanding how and why mammalian brains produce the diversity of kinematic forms in conjunction with relatively invariant rhythms. Presently, we are addressing these issues through cross-species comparative kinematic studies, and we use functional data analysis to address these issues. (2) Tooth wear, fecundity and longevity. Tooth wear in mammals is a natural consequence of use; however, excessive tooth wear is associated with reduced fecundity and longevity in some species. Some species have evolved continuously growing teeth (hypsolodonty) to reduce the impact of tooth wear on fitness; however, most species have not. Indeed, most mammals possess only two sets of teeth (“baby” and “adult” teeth), whereas other toothed vertebrates often get several, even hundreds of sets. This is all the more peculiar, given that mammals eat substantially more than non-homeothermic vertebrates. I am interested in why mammals have only two sets of teeth and use their teeth more frequently than non-mammals.

Current Research