MAE tribologist helps explain wear biomechanics in hadrosaurid dinosaur teeth

Tribology involves the science of friction and wear, and MAE Prof. Greg Sawyer has tackled problems ranging from space materials to contact lenses. In a recent Science paper (Erickson et al., 338, p.98, 2012), Sawyer and his colleagues used a combination of wear and hardness measurements on fossilized teeth to create three-dimensional tribological wear models, which reveal how the hadrosaurid’s unique six-tissue dental structure evolved for grinding and ecological specialization. Their research revealed that hadrosaurids evolved the most histologically and biomechanically sophisticated dentitions known among reptiles. The ability to measure wear-relevant properties in fossils provides a new approach to study biomechanics throughout evolution.