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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Oct;87(20):8120-4.

Opal phytoliths found on the teeth of the extinct ape Gigantopithecus blacki: implications for paleodietary studies.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242.


Identification of opal phytoliths bonded to the enamel surface of the teeth of Gigantopithecus blacki indicates that this extinct ape had a varied diet of grasses and fruits. By using the scanning electron microscope at magnifications of 2000-6000x specific opal phytoliths were observed and photographed on the fossilized teeth of an extinct species. Since opal phytoliths represent the inorganic remains of once-living plant cells, their documentation on the teeth of Gigantopithecus introduces a promising technique for the determination of diet in extinct mammalian species which should find numerous applications in the field of paleoanthropology as well as vertebrate paleontology.

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