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Triceratops slicing dentition (free pdf)
A new paper in open access Science Advances:
Gregory M. Erickson, Mark A. Sidebottom, David I. Kay, Kevin T.
Turner, Nathan Ip, Mark A. Norell, W. Gregory Sawyer & Brandon A.
Wear biomechanics in the slicing dentition of the giant horned
Science Advances 1 (5): e1500055
Herbivorous reptiles rarely evolve occluding dentitions that allow for
the mastication (chewing) of plant matter. Conversely, most
herbivorous mammals have occluding teeth with complex tissue
architectures that self-wear to complex morphologies for orally
processing plants. Dinosaurs stand out among reptiles in that several
lineages acquired the capacity to masticate. In particular, the horned
ceratopsian dinosaurs, among the most successful Late Cretaceous
dinosaurian lineages, evolved slicing dentitions for the exploitation
of tough, bulky plant matter. We show how Triceratops, a 9-m-long
ceratopsian, and its relatives evolved teeth that wore during feeding
to create fullers (recessed central regions on cutting blades) on the
chewing surfaces. This unique morphology served to reduce friction
during feeding. It was achieved through the evolution of a complex
suite of osseous dental tissues rivaling the complexity of mammalian
dentitions. Tribological (wear) properties of the tissues are
preserved in ~66-million-year-old teeth, allowing the creation of a
sophisticated three-dimensional biomechanical wear model that reveals
how the complexes synergistically wore to create these implements.
These findings, along with similar discoveries in hadrosaurids
(duck-billed dinosaurs), suggest that tissue-mediated changes in
dental morphology may have played a major role in the remarkable
ecological diversification of these clades and perhaps other
dinosaurian clades capable of mastication.