Bryan M. Gee, Yara Haridy & Robert R. Reisz (2017)
Histological characterization of denticulate palatal plates in an Early Permian dissorophoid.
Denticles are small, tooth-like protrusions that are commonly found on the palate of early tetrapods. Despite their widespread taxonomic occurrence and similar external morphology to marginal teeth, it has not been rigorously tested whether denticles are structurally homologous to true teeth with features such as a pulp cavity, dentine, and enamel, or if they are bony, tooth-like protrusions. Additionally, the denticles are known to occur not only on the palatal bones but also on a mosaic of small palatal plates that is thought to have covered the interpterygoid vacuities of temnospondyls through implantation in a soft tissue covering; however, these plates have never been examined beyond a simple description of their position and external morphology. Accordingly, we performed a histological analysis of these denticulate palatal plates in a dissorophoid temnospondyl in order to characterize their microanatomy and histology. The dentition on these palatal plates has been found to be homologous with true teeth on the basis of both external morphology and histological data through the identification of features such as enamel and a pulp cavity surrounded by dentine. In addition, patterns of tooth replacement and ankylosis support the hypothesis of structural homology between these tiny teeth on the palatal plates and the much larger marginal dentition. We also provide the first histological characterization of the palatal plates, including documentation of abundant Sharpey’s fibres that provide a direct line of evidence to support the hypothesis of soft tissue implantation. Finally, we conducted a survey of the literature to determine the taxonomic distribution of these plates within Temnospondyli, providing a broader context for the presence of palatal plates and illustrating the importance of maintaining consistency in nomenclature.