Fossil molars offer insight into kangaroo ancestors

UPPSALA, Sweden: Kangaroos are icons of Australia’s unique living fauna whose earliest ancestry has yet to be discovered. However, using archaeological findings that were unveiled in Australia 30 years ago, researchers from Uppsala University recently identified the most distant ancestor of today’s kangaroos with the help of new technology.

In the early 1980s, palaeontologists excavated a few enigmatic molars around a dry salt lake in northern South Australia. The rare specimens were recognised as belonging to an ancient kangaroo ancestor and stored in a museum collection for more than three decades until modern computer-based analysis enabled researchers to confirm the significance of the discovery. The kangaroo ancestor was named Palaeopotorous priscus, which is Latin for “ancient rat-kangaroo”. “Our results showed that Palaeopotorous was most similar to living rat-kangaroos, as well as some other extinct kangaroo relatives. Using information from fossils, and the DNA of living species, we were able to further determine that at around 24 million years old, Palaeopotorous is not just primitive, but likely represents the most distant forerunner of all known kangaroos, rat-kangaroos and their more ancient ancestors,” said lead author Dr Wendy den Boer, recent doctoral student at the university and current staff member of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “Palaeopotorous was about the size of a small rabbit, and probably did not hop, but would have bounded on all four legs. Nevertheless, a few bones found at the same site in central Australia indicate that the earliest kangaroos already possessed some key adaptations for hopping gaits,” said co-author Dr Benjamin Kear from the Museum of Evolution at the university. Palaeopotorous lived at a time when central Australia was much wetter than it is today. Its fossils were buried in clay deposits left by a river, even though these earliest kangaroo ancestors would have foraged among vegetation growing nearby and along the banks. The teeth of Palaeopotorous were washed into the river after their death, along with the remains of many other ancient marsupials. The study, titled “Is the fossil rat-kangaroo Palaeopotorous priscus the most basally branching stem macropodiform?”, was recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (Volume 38, Issue 2).

Tags: fossil, kangaroo ancestor, molar teeth, Sweden

New commitment to providing dental care to foster children welcomed

NEW YORK, U.S.: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 40 percent of children in foster care have significant oral health issues, caused in part by the stress of acclimatizing to new surroundings and oral health becoming a lower priority. New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is now partnering with the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry to provide dental screenings to children in foster care to help address the concerns.

As part of this collaboration, the College of Dentistry will offer weekly 30-minute educational sessions on oral health at the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center, with all screenings and restorative treatment taking place on-site at a mobile dental care unit, also located at the center. For those patients who need additional treatment, they will be given appointments at the College of Dentistry. Commenting on the collaboration, ACS Commissioner David Hansell said that the commitment will enhance the lives of the children the ACS serves. “What this partnership means is that thousands of kids in foster care will have easier access to critical dental services—like screenings, fillings, and more—which will put them on track to a healthier life overall. I want to thank NYU College of Dentistry for its partnership and leadership,” he said. According to studies conducted by researchers at the College of Dentistry, when children lose their family structure, their oral health is directly affected, which leads to an increase in dental caries. Prof. Mark S. Wolff, Chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the College of Dentistry, said: “NYU Dentistry is committed through this program to begin the process of improving oral health for this most vulnerable group of children.”

Tags: dentistry, foster care, health, new york

The New Wellness Approach: Co-Managing Patients with Medicine

Today’s visit to the dental office should be about wellness.

Today’s visit to the dental office should be about wellness. Dentistry is no longer just about the teeth…it’s about inflammation. Inflammation is at the root cause of many of the chronic diseases of aging. The evidence is clear that the mouth can contribute to the overall level of inflammation when periodontal disease persists. Many of the risk factors for systemic disease also affect periodontal disease. By managing the risk factors we have in common with medicine, today’s dental professional can help their patients achieve better oral and overall health. This course presents a comprehensive program for incorporating wellness screening and therapy into existing dental practices. Participants will learn:
  • The role inflammation plays in oral and systemic health.
  • How to effectively deliver a new message intended to educate and motivate patients.
  • A priority patient approach focused on identifying patients in whom inflammation reduction is critical.
  • A wellness examination protocol – how to screen for the wellness factors that affect oral and systemic health.
  • How to communicate with medicine and co-manage the patients we have in common.
  • How to use the oral-systemic link as a practice builder.
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