Paul Constantino Associate Professor of Biology

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Bio

Ph.D. Hominid Paleobiology, The George Washington University
M.A. Anthropology, Florida Atlantic University
B.S. Biology, Saint Michael’s College

Areas of Expertise:

Evolutionary biology
Human evolution
Human anatomy

Courses I Teach:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Human Evolution
  • Introduction to Ecology and Evolution
  • First Year Seminar – Africa and Its Peoples
  • Evolution
  • Tropical Ecology: Costa Rica
  • Senior Seminar: Biological Basis of Human Behavior
  • Forensic Science

Research

I study human evolution, especially the evolution of our skulls and teeth. Most of my research aims to reconstruct the diets of our ancestors through a variety of techniques including:
1. Linking damage patterns observed in fossil teeth with the foods or behaviors that caused them.
2. Examining variation in tooth microstructure to reveal how teeth adapt to diet.
3. Investigating dietary influences on skull shape.

Recent News

Paul Constantino ’92 of the biology faculty has recently published two more scientific papers. The first, called “Dental chipping supports lack of hard-object feeding in Paranthropus boisei,” is in the Journal of Human Evolution and was written with recent graduate Katy Konow ’21. It analyzed tooth fracture patterns to reconstruct diet in some of our fossil relatives. Despite having enormous teeth and jaws, these creatures appear to have been focusing on soft vegetation for the bulk of their diets, not hard foods like seeds and nuts. Paul’s second paper is a review of some of the work he and his colleagues have done applying fracture mechanics to dental tissues. These studies have revealed much about tooth adaptation and dietary reconstruction of hominins and other mammals. The paper, called “Fundamental mechanics of tooth fracture and wear: implications for humans and other primates” is part of a symposium issue on Anthroengineering and will be published in the British Royal Society journal Interface Focus.
(Posted July 2021)

Paul Constantino ‘92 of the St. Mike’s biology faculty worked with a number of colleagues to publish four papers over the past year, all revolving around the question of how teeth adapt to diet. Two are written with Spanish colleagues and two with graduate students from Dartmouth and Rutgers. One of Paul’s studies with colleagues shows that phytoliths (silica based particles in plant tissues) can wear teeth. This has been a matter of debate for many years and has implications for why some animals evolved either thicker enamel (humans) or taller teeth (e.g., horses). The first and second authors are Spanish colleagues. The final author is Paul’s prime collaborator and a member of the National Academy of Engineers; another paper shows how the microstructure of our teeth can protect against catastrophic tooth fracture, with some of the same co-authors but this time including an Australian expert in engineering-based computer modeling; a third paper looks at the effectiveness of tooth chipping as an indicator of diet in primates; the fourth paper uses a baboon model to show how wear rates change as enamel is lost in a tooth.
(posted February 2021)

Paul Constantino published a paper with colleagues from Spain, Australia, and the US in the journal Biology Letters. The paper is called “On the Vital Role of Enamel Prism Interfaces and Graded Properties in Human Tooth Survival” and it discusses ways in which our teeth have become adapted to resist both fracture and abrasion through the organization of their enamel microstructure. (posted August 2020).

Paul Constantino, assistant professor of biology, this November attended a workshop in Chengdu, China on dental tribology (tooth wear). Fifteen researchers from around the world were invited including biologists and engineers from China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, England, Poland, and Germany. Paul was only one of three Americans in attendance. The workshop aimed to combine scientists who study tooth wear from multiple angles, from biologists like Paul who use it to reconstruct the dietary behavior of fossil animals, to those who use it to create better dental prosthetics, to engineers who want to understand tooth wear for biomimetic applications like reducing wear on high-speed train tracks. Presentations were given to a large Chinese audience at the Tribology Research Institute at Southwest Jiaotong University, and then two days of discussions followed. Paul also recently was quoted in an article appearing in the periodical Science News titled “Nitty-gritty of Homo naledi’s diet revealed in its teeth: Lots of chipped enamel suggests the food of the ancient humanlike species came à la dirt.” As Paul notes, “Science News is a pretty big magazine in our field for getting the word out to the general public about significant discoveries in science.”
(posted December 2017)

Paul Constantino, assistant professor of biology, presented his research on human dental evolution at the 86th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, which was held in April in New Orleans, LA. Paul was also involved in the Smithsonian’s “Exploring Human Origins” exhibit held at Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library. He conducted educational trainings for local middle and high school teachers on the exhibit’s content and had students from his Human Evolution class volunteer as docents.
(posted June 2017)

Paul Constantino recently published a paper with some colleagues in the journal BioEssays. It discusses the potential of a micromechanics approach to understanding tooth wear and reconstructing the diets of extinct animals. He and three of his students have also recently given presentations at conferences of the American Association of Physical Anthropology and International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology. These presentations discussed how the microstructure of tooth enamel can reveal important information about dietary adaptation.

Paul Constantino, assistant professor of biology, has recently published research on reconstructing diet from tooth wear in the journals BioEssays and Acta Biomaterialia, and just submitted another paper to Journal of the Royal Society Interface. He also presented research on tooth microstructure at the 85th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Atlanta, and has three students from his lab presenting their research at the eleventh International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology to be held at the end of June in Washington, DC.
(posted June 2016)

Paul Constantino, assistant professor of biology, is co-author with some colleagues of a paper about seat otter dental enamel and its high resistance to chipping, published this fall in the journal Biology Letters by Royal Society Publishing.
(Submitted December 2014)