Mammalian tooth enamel is often chipped, providing clear evidence for localized contacts with large hard food objects. Here, we apply a simple fracture equation to estimate peak bite forces directly from chip size. Many fossil hominins exhibit antemortem chips on their posterior teeth, indicating their use of high bite forces. The inference that these species must have consumed large hard foods such as seeds is supported by the occurrence of similar chips among known modern-day seed predators such as orangutans and peccaries. The existence of tooth chip signatures also provides a way of identifying the consumption of rarely eaten foods that dental microwear and isotopic analysis are unlikely to detect.
Constantino PJ, Lee JJ-W, Chai H, Zipfel B, Ziscovici C, Lawn BR, and Lucas PW. Tooth chipping can reveal bite forces and diets of fossil hominins. Biology Letters 6: 826-829.