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J Morphol. 2007 Aug;268(8):664-82.

Morphology and mechanics of the teeth and jaws of white-spotted bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium plagiosum).

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881-0816, USA.


The teeth of white-spotted bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium plagiosum) are used to clutch soft-bodied prey and crush hard prey; however, the dual function is not evident from tooth morphology alone. Teeth exhibit characteristics that are in agreement with a clutching-type tooth morphology that is well suited for grasping and holding soft-bodied prey, but not for crushing hard prey. The dual role of this single tooth morphology is facilitated by features of the dental ligament and jaw joint. Tooth attachment is flexible and elastic, allowing movement in both sagittal and frontal planes. During prey capture spike-like tooth cusps pierce the flesh of soft prey, thereby preventing escape. When processing prey harder than the teeth can pierce the teeth passively depress, rotating inward towards the oral cavity such that the broader labial faces of the teeth are nearly parallel to the surface of the jaws and form a crushing surface. Movement into the depressed position increases the tooth surface area contacting prey and decreases the total stress applied to the tooth, thereby decreasing the risk of structural failure. This action is aided by a jaw joint that is ventrally offset from the occlusal planes of the jaws. The offset joint position allows many teeth to contact prey simultaneously and orients force vectors at contact points between the jaws and prey in a manner that shears or rolls prey between the jaws during a bite, thus, aiding in processing while reducing forward slip of hard prey from the mouth. Together the teeth, dental ligament, and jaws form an integrated system that may be beneficial to the feeding ecology of C. plagiosum, allowing for a diet that includes prey of varying hardness and elusiveness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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