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J Anat. 2014 May;224(5):603-13. doi: 10.1111/joa.12162. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

Unique method of tooth replacement in durophagous placodont marine reptiles, with new data on the dentition of Chinese taxa.

Author information

1
Palaeontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Abstract

The placodonts of the Triassic period (~252-201 mya) represent one of the earliest and most extreme specialisations to a durophagous diet of any known reptile group. Exceptionally enlarged crushing tooth plates on the maxilla, dentary and palatine cooperated to form functional crushing areas in the buccal cavity. However, the extreme size of these teeth, combined with the unusual way they occluded, constrained how replacement occurred. Using an extensive micro-computed tomographic dataset of 11 specimens that span all geographic regions and placodont morphotypes, tooth replacement patterns were investigated. In addition, the previously undescribed dental morphologies and formulae of Chinese taxa are described for the first time and incorporated into the analysis. Placodonts have a unique tooth replacement pattern and results follow a phylogenetic trend. The plesiomorphic Placodus species show many replacement teeth at various stages of growth, with little or no discernible pattern. On the other hand, the more derived cyamodontoids tend to have fewer replacement teeth growing at any one time, replacing teeth unilaterally and/or in functional units, thus maintaining at least one functional crushing area at all times. The highly derived placochelyids have fewer teeth and, as a result, only have one or two replacement teeth in the upper jaw. This supports previous suggestions that these taxa had an alternative diet to other placodonts. Importantly, all specimens show at least one replacement tooth growing at the most posterior palatine tooth plates, indicating increased wear at this point and thus the most efficient functional crushing area.

KEYWORDS:

Placodontia; Triassic marine reptiles; durophagy; tooth replacement

PMID:
24517163
PMCID:
PMC3981503
DOI:
10.1111/joa.12162
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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