FEM of durophagous teeth

The teeth of durophagous predators have two main jobs: to break the hard shell of the prey and to resist failure themselves.  In order to understand how different durophagous tooth morphologies resist failure, I use finite element analysis (FEA) to understand how applied forces are distributed within teeth.

FEA large C-C

Concave-convex tooth morphologies with force applied to mimic a large load

FEA is an engineering technique that takes a shape, breaks it down into smaller shapes (a finite number of elements), and analyzes how stress and strain are distributed from a known source, between elements, and throughout the whole shape.  By analyzing theoretical durophagous tooth morphologies, I was able to obtain strain energy in each shape, which can serve as a proxy for the liklihood of tooth failure, and the distribution of 1st Principal strain in the tooth itself.  The distribution of in-tooth strain can be visualized as a heat map, with warmer colors representing areas of higher strain, and thus areas where failure is more likely.

Tooth morphologies with force applied a central cusp of variable height

By normalizing the applied load by the volume of each tooth, I was able to compare the strains between tooth morphologies.  In addition to comparing in-tooth strain distribution between tooth morphologies, I also changed how loads were applied to the teeth to simulate large and small prey items.

FEA large R

Tooth morphologies with force applied a central cusp that varies in width