Tooth replacement in early sarcopterygians

Mark Doeland, Aidan M. C. Couzens, Philip C. J. Donoghue, Martin Rücklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


Teeth were an important innovation in vertebrate evolution but basic aspects of early dental evolution remain poorly understood. Teeth differ from other odontode organs, like scales, in their organized, sequential pattern of replacement. However, tooth replacement patterns also vary between the major groups of jawed vertebrates. Although tooth replacement in stem-osteichthyans and extant species has been intensively studied it has been difficult to resolve scenarios for the evolution of osteichthyan tooth replacement because of a dearth of evidence from living and fossil sarcopterygian fishes. Here we provide new anatomical data informing patterns of tooth replacement in the Devonian sarcopterygian fishes Onychodus, Eusthenopteron and Tiktaalik and the living coelacanth Latimeria based on microfocus- and synchrotron radiation-based X-ray microtomography. Early sarcopterygians generated replacement teeth on the jaw surface in a pattern similar to stem-osteichthyans, with damaged teeth resorbed and replacement teeth developed on the surface of the bone. However, resorption grades and development of replacement teeth vary spatially and temporally within the jaw. Particularly in Onychodus, where teeth were also shed through anterior rotation and resorption of bone at the base of the parasymphyseal tooth whorl, with new teeth added posteriorly. As tooth whorls are also present in more stem-osteichthyans, and statodont tooth whorls are present among acanthodians (putative stem-chondrichthyans), rotational replacement of the anterior dentition may be a stem-osteichthyan character. Our results suggest a more complex evolutionary history of tooth replacement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2019


  • Osteichthyes
  • development
  • dentition
  • ancestral
  • micro-CT


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