Jun Chen, Aaron R. H. LeBlanc, Liyong Jin, Timothy Huang & Robert R. Reisz (2018)
Tooth development, histology, and enamel microstructure in Changchunsaurus parvus: Implications for dental evolution in ornithopod dinosaurs.Â
PLoS ONE 13(11): e0205206.Â
The great diversity of dinosaurian tooth shapes and sizes, and in particular, the amazing dental complexity in derived ornithischians has attracted a lot of attention. However, the evolution of dental batteries in hadrosaurids and ceratopsids is difficult to understand without a broader comparative framework. Here we describe tooth histology and development in the "middle" Cretaceous ornithischian dinosaur Changchunsaurus parvus, a small herbivore that has been characterized as an early ornithopod, or even as a more basal ornithischian. We use this taxon to show how a "typical" ornithischian dentition develops, copes with wear, and undergoes tooth replacement. Although in most respects the histological properties of their teeth are similar to those of other dinosaurs, we show that, as in other more derived ornithischians, in C. parvus the pulp chamber is not invaded fully by the newly developing replacement tooth until eruption is nearly complete. This allowed C. parvus to maintain an uninterrupted shearing surface along a single tooth row, while undergoing continuous tooth replacement. Our histological sections also show that the replacement foramina on the lingual surfaces of the jaws are likely the entry points for an externally placed dental lamina, a feature found in many other ornithischian dinosaurs. Surprisingly, our histological analysis also revealed the presence of wavy enamel, the phylogenetically earliest occurrence of this type of tissue. This contradicts previous interpretations that this peculiar type of enamel arose in association with more complex hadrosauroid dentitions. In view of its early appearance, we suggest that wavy enamel may have evolved in association with a shearing-type dentition in a roughly symmetrically-enameled crown, although its precise function still remains somewhat of a mystery.