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Center For Biotechnology And Interdisciplinary Studies

Saber-Toothed Tiger Teeth Scanned
Saber-Toothed Tiger Teeth Scanned

Researchers at Rensselaer’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and the New York State Museum recently collaborated to study the ancient teeth of a saber-toothed tiger using some of the facility’s most modern technology, including a miniaturized CT scanner.

“This is an exciting local partnership that highlights the research capabilities and potential for collaboration here in the Capital Region,” says Glenn Monastersky, director of operations. “I am excited to see our equipment, which was purchased with funding through the New York state Gen*NY*sis program, being used for a scientific collaboration with a neighboring Albany institution.”

Robert Feranec, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the New York State Museum, has been studying the teeth of young saber-toothed tigers for several years. Even after extensive research on these fascinating ancient cats, paleontologists still don’t know how long it took the cats to grow their signature banana-sized adult canine teeth. Without a better understanding, paleontologists don’t yet know when the cats could have used them to kill, what they ate before and after their teeth grew in, or if young cats needed to stay with their parents for a longer period before becoming fully capable killers.

It took nearly six hours to fully scan one of two teeth Feranec brought, and the preliminary results look extremely promising. Feranec will now analyze the results to determine how long it takes the enamel in the teeth to harden and mature or mineralize. Because the CT scanner breaks the image down into extremely thin slices, the researchers will be able to determine how long the mineralized part of the teeth is.

The research could have widespread implications for understanding the development and growth of teeth in all ancient mammals.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.