Incremental growth of therizinosaurian dental tissues: implications for dietary transitions in Theropoda.
ABSTRACT: Previous investigations document functional and phylogenetic signals in the histology of dinosaur teeth. In particular, incremental lines in dentin have been used to determine tooth growth and replacement rates in several dinosaurian clades. However, to date, few studies have investigated the dental microstructure of theropods in the omnivory/herbivory spectrum. Here we examine dental histology of Therizinosauria, a clade of large-bodied theropods bearing significant morphological evidence for herbivory, by examining the teeth of the early-diverging therizinosaurian Falcarius utahensis, and an isolated tooth referred to Suzhousaurus megatherioides, a highly specialized large-bodied representative. Despite attaining some of the largest body masses among maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs, therizinosaurian teeth are diminutive, measuring no more than 0.90 cm in crown height (CH) and 0.38 cm in crown base length (CBL). Comparisons with other theropods and non-theropodan herbivorous dinosaurs reveals that when controlling for estimated body mass, crown volume in therizinosaurians plots most closely with dinosaurs of similar dietary strategy as opposed to phylogenetic heritage. Analysis of incremental growth lines in dentin, observed in thin sections of therizinosaurian teeth, demonstrates that tooth growth rates fall within the range of other archosaurs, conforming to hypothesized physiological limitations on the production of dental tissues. Despite dietary differences between therizinosaurians and hypercarnivorous theropods, the types of enamel crystallites present and their spatial distribution-i.e., the schmelzmuster of both taxa-is limited to parallel enamel crystallites, the simplest form of enamel and the plesiomorphic condition for Theropoda. This finding supports previous hypotheses that dental microstructure is strongly influenced by phylogeny, yet equally supports suggestions of reduced reliance on oral processing in omnivorous/herbivorous theropods rather than the microstructural specializations to diet exhibited by non-theropodan herbivorous dinosaurs. Finally, although our sample is limited, we document a significant reduction in the rate of enamel apposition contrasted with increased relative enamel thickness between early and later diverging therizinosaurians that coincides with anatomical evidence for increased specializations to herbivory in the clade.
Project description:Tapinocephalids were one of the earliest therapsid clades to evolve herbivory. In acquiring derived tooth-to-tooth occlusion by means of an exaggerated heel and talon crown morphology, members of this family have long been considered herbivorous, yet little work has been done to describe their dentition. Given the early occurrence of this clade and their acquisition of a dentition with several derived features, tapinocephalids serve as an important clade in understanding adaptations to herbivory as well as macroevolutionary patterns of dental trait acquisition. Here we describe the histology of tapinocephalid jaws and incisors to assess adaptations to herbivory. Our results yield new dental characters for tapinocephalids including a peculiar enamel structure and reduced enamel deposition on the occlusal surface. These traits are convergent with other specialized herbivorous dentitions like those found in ornithischian dinosaurs and ungulates. Furthermore, these results demonstrate that while acquiring some specializations, tapinocephalids also retained plesiomorphic traits like alternate, continuous replacement. We interpret these findings as an example of how different combinations of traits can facilitate a derived and specialized dentition and then discuss their implications in the acquisition of a mammal-like dentition.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Tooth morphology within theropod dinosaurs has been extensively investigated and shows high disparity throughout the Cretaceous. Changes or diversification in feeding ecology, i.e., adoption of an herbivorous diet (e.g., granivorous), is proposed as a major driver of tooth evolution in Paraves (e.g., Microraptor, troodontids and avialans). Here, we studied the microscopic features of paravian non-avian theropod and avialan teeth using high-spatial-resolution synchrotron transmission X-ray microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. RESULTS:We show that avialan teeth are characterized by the presence of simple enamel structures and a lack of porous mantle dentin between the enamel and orthodentin. Reduced internal structures of teeth took place independently in Early Cretaceous birds and a Microraptor specimen, implying that shifts in diet in avialans from that of closely related dinosaurs may correlate with a shift in feeding ecology during the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds. CONCLUSION:Different lines of evidence all suggest a large reduction in biting force affecting the evolution of teeth in the dinosaur-bird transition. Changes in teeth microstructure and associated dietary shift may have contributed to the early evolutionary success of stemward birds in the shadow of other non-avian theropods.
Project description:The relationship between tooth form and dietary preference is a crucial issue in vertebrate evolution. However, the mechanical properties of a tooth are influenced not only by its shape but also by its internal structure. Here, we use synchrotron transmission X-ray microscopy to examine the internal microstructures of multiple dinosaur teeth within a phylogenetic framework. We found that the internal microstructures of saurischian teeth are very different from advanced ornithischian teeth, reflecting differences in dental developmental strategies. The three-tissue composition (enamel-mantle dentin-bulk dentin) near the dentinoenamel junction (DEJ) in saurischian teeth represents the primitive condition of dinosaur teeth. Mantle dentin, greatly reduced or absent from DEJ in derived ornithischian teeth, is a key difference between Saurischia and Ornithischia. This may be related to the derived herbivorous feeding behavior of ornithischians, but interestingly, it is still retained in the herbivorous saurischian sauropods. The protective functions of mantle dentin with porous microstructures between enamel and bulk dentin inside typical saurischian teeth are also discussed using finite-element analysis method. Evolution of the dental modifications in ornithischian dinosaurs, with the absence of mantle dentin, may be related to changes in enamel characteristics with enamel spindles extending through the DEJ.
Project description:Unworn teeth of herbivorous mammals are not immediately functional. They have to be partially worn to expose enamel ridges which can then act as shear-cutting blades to break the food down. We use the Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) as a hypsodont, herbivorous model organism to investigate how initial wear of the tooth crown is controlled by underlying structures. We find that the enamel proportion is smaller at the apical half of the tooth crown in all upper tooth positions and suggest that lower enamel content here could promote early wear. Besides this uneven enamel distribution, we note that the third molar has a higher overall enamel content than any other tooth position. The M3 is thus likely to have a slightly different functional trait in mastication, resisting highest bite forces along the tooth row and maintaining functionality when anterior teeth are already worn down.
Project description:Lanzhousaurus magnidens, a large non-hadrosauriform iguanodontian dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Hekou Group of Gansu Province, China has the largest known herbivorous dinosaur teeth. Unlike its hadrosauriform relatives possessing tooth batteries of many small teeth, Lanzhousaurus utilized a small number (14) of very large teeth (~10?cm long) to create a large, continuous surface for mastication. Here we investigate the significance of Lanzhousaurus in the evolutionary history of iguanodontian-hadrosauriform transition by using a combination of stable isotope analysis and CT imagery. We infer that Lanzhousaurus had a rapid rate of tooth enamel elongation or amelogenesis at 0.24?mm/day with dental tissues common to other Iguanodontian dinosaurs. Among ornithopods, high rates of amelogenesis have been previously observed in hadrosaurids, where they have been associated with a sophisticated masticatory apparatus. These data suggest rapid amelogenesis evolved among non-hadrosauriform iguanodontians such as Lanzhousaurus, representing a crucial step that was exapted for the evolution of the hadrosaurian feeding mechanism.
Project description:Tooth morphology and development can provide valuable insights into the feeding behaviour and evolution of extinct organisms. The teeth of Theropoda, the only clade of predominantly predatory dinosaurs, are characterized by ziphodonty, the presence of serrations (denticles) on their cutting edges. Known today only in varanid lizards, ziphodonty is much more pervasive in the fossil record. Here we present the first model for the development of ziphodont teeth in theropods through histological, SEM, and SR-FTIR analyses, revealing that structures previously hypothesized to prevent tooth breakage instead first evolved to shape and maintain the characteristic denticles through the life of the tooth. We show that this novel complex of dental morphology and tissues characterizes Theropoda, with the exception of species with modified feeding behaviours, suggesting that these characters are important for facilitating the hypercarnivorous diet of most theropods. This adaptation may have played an important role in the initial radiation and subsequent success of theropods as terrestrial apex predators.
Project description:Hypsodonty, the occurrence of high-crowned teeth, is widespread among mammals with diets rich in abrasive material, such as plants or soil, because it increases the durability of dentitions against wear. Hypsodont postcanine teeth evolved independently in multiple mammalian lineages and in the closely related mammaliaforms since the Jurassic period. Here, we report the oldest record, to our knowledge, of hypsodont postcanines in the non-mammaliaform stem-mammal, Menadon besairiei, from the early Late Triassic. The postcanines are long and columnar, with open roots. They were not replaced in older individuals and remained functional after the total wear of the crown enamel. Dental histology suggests that, convergently to hypsodont mammals, wear was compensated by the prolonged growth of each postcanine, resulting in dentine hypsodont teeth most similar to extant xenarthran mammals. These findings highlight the constraints imposed by limited tooth replacement and tooth wear in the evolutionary trajectories of herbivorous mammals and stem-mammals.
Project description:The monophyodont molar teeth, prismatic enamel and the complexity of enamel microarchitecture are regarded as essential dental apomorphies of mammals. As prominent background factors of feeding efficiency and individual longevity these characters are crucial components of mammalian adaptive dynamics. Little is known, however, to which degree these adaptations are influenced by the crystallographic properties of elementary hydroxyapatite crystallites, the only inorganic component of enamel. In a miniature pig where individual molars differ significantly in duration of their development and in enamel resistance to attrition stress, we found highly significant differences between the molars in the size of crystallites, amount of microstrain, crystallinity and in enamel stiffness and elasticity, all clearly scaled with the duration of tooth calcification. The same pattern was found also in red deer bearing different molar type. The results suggest that the prolongation of tooth development is associated with an increase of crystallinity, i.e. the atomic order of enamel hydroxyapatite, an obvious component of micromechanical property of mature enamel. This relation could contribute to prolongation of dental development, characteristic of mammals in general. The aspects of enamel crystallinity, omitted in previous studies on mammalian and vertebrate dental evolution, are to be taken in account in these topics.
Project description:The tooth enamel development gene, enamelin (ENAM), showed evidence of positive selection during a genome-wide scan of human and primate DNA for signs of adaptive evolution. The current study examined the hypothesis that a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) C14625T (rs7671281) in the ENAM gene identified in the genome-wide scan is associated with a change in enamel phenotype. African Americans were selected as the target population, as they have been reported to have a target SNP frequency of approximately 50%, whereas non-Africans are predicted to have a 96% SNP frequency. Digital radiographs and DNA samples from 244 teeth in 133 subjects were analysed, and enamel thickness was assessed in relation to SNP status, controlling for age, sex, tooth number and crown length. Crown length was found to increase with molar number, and females were found to have thicker enamel. Teeth with larger crowns also had thicker enamel, and older subjects had thinner enamel. Linear regression and generalized estimating equations were used to investigate the relationship between enamel thickness of the mandibular molars and ENAM SNP status; enamel in subjects with the derived allele was significantly thinner (P=0.040) when the results were controlled for sex, age, tooth number and crown length. The derived allele demonstrated a recessive effect on the phenotype. The data indicate that thinner dental enamel is associated with the derived ENAM genotype. This is the first direct evidence of a dental gene implicated in human adaptive evolution as having a phenotypic effect on an oral structure.
Project description:Teeth are key to understanding the feeding ecology of both extant and extinct vertebrates. Recent studies have highlighted the previously unrecognized complexity of dinosaur dentitions and how specific tooth tissues and tooth shapes differ between taxa with different diets. However, it is unknown how the ultrastructure of these tooth tissues contributes to the differences in feeding style between taxa. In this study, we use third harmonic generation microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to examine the ultrastructure of the dentine in herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs to understand how the structure of this tissue contributes to the overall utility of the tooth. Morphometric analyses of dentinal tubule diameter, density and branching rates reveal a strong signal for dietary preferences, with herbivorous saurischian and ornithischian dinosaurs consistently having higher dentinal tubule density than their carnivorous relatives. We hypothesize that this relates to the hardness of the dentine, where herbivorous taxa have dentine that is more resistant to breakage and wear at the dentine-enamel junction than carnivorous taxa. This study advocates the detailed study of dentine and the use of advanced microscopy techniques to understand the evolution of dentition and feeding ecology in extinct vertebrates.