Chen D, Blom H, Sanchez S, Tafforeau P, Ahlberg PE
Nature 539 (7628) 237-241 [2016-11-10; online 2016-10-17]
The teeth of gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) show rigidly patterned, unidirectional replacement that may or may not be associated with a shedding mechanism. These mechanisms, which are critical for the maintenance of the dentition, are incongruently distributed among extant gnathostomes. Although a permanent tooth-generating dental lamina is present in all chondrichthyans, many tetrapods and some teleosts, it is absent in the non-teleost actinopterygians. Tooth-shedding by basal hard tissue resorption occurs in most osteichthyans (including tetrapods) but not in chondrichthyans. Here we report a three-dimensional virtual dissection of the dentition of a 424-million-year-old stem osteichthyan, Andreolepis hedei, using propagation phase-contrast synchrotron microtomography, with a reconstruction of its growth history. Andreolepis, close to the common ancestor of all extant osteichthyans, shed its teeth by basal resorption but probably lacked a permanent dental lamina. This is the earliest documented instance of resorptive tooth shedding and may represent the primitive osteichthyan mode of tooth replacement.