UND anthropologist Cuozzo wins award at UK international symposium


David L. Dodds

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University of North Dakota


University of North Dakota's Frank Cuozzo, professor of biological anthropology and his colleague, Michelle Sauther (University of Colorado-Boulder), recently won the award for best poster presentation at the 15th International Symposium on Dental Morphology. The conference took place Aug. 24-27in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, United Kingdom.

The triennial conference brought together more than 100 anthropologists and paleontologists from 17 countries. Cuozzo and Sauther, both of whom have done extensive research on ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar, took home a cash prize for their presentation "Toothcomb Function and Use In Wild Ring-Tailed Lemurs: Implications for the Evolution of the Prosimian Toothcomb."

Cuozzo usually joins a research team in Madagascar for two to three months during the southern hemisphere's winter.

Lemurs—named after Roman mythological ghosts—are the small fry of the primate world. Full-grown adult lemurs weigh a few ounces to a few pounds. Many lemurs aren't much bigger than squirrels, though a few biggies top the lemur family scale at 20 pounds or so. These tiny animals, many of which are nocturnal, may shed a big light on climate change and its environmental impacts.

It's all about "primate dental ecology," Cuozzo says.

"Yes, we've actually started using the term to describe and explain the interaction between teeth and the environment and how it shows us ways that animals, specifically primates, reflect environmental change, and reflect use of their environment," he said.

Cuozzo, whose particular specialty is the wear patterns of lemur teeth, looks at the variables that produce tooth wear and how that reflects environmental change.

This challenging and sometimes daunting research aims to correlate dental wear with changes in diet that may be prompted by changes in the mostly forest environment that the lemurs live in.