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Ancient Amphibians Had Fangs And Thousands Of Tiny Teeth

16 September 2017, 7:39 am EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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If modern amphibians don't scare you, maybe ancient ones will. As it turns out, ancient amphibians had thousands of teeth on the roof of their mouths.  ( Brian Engh | Don't Mess With Dinosaurs )

A new research shows that ancient amphibians didn't just have sharp fangs, but they also had thousands of small teeth to capture their prey. They use these tiny teeth to hold on to and swallow prey.

Toothy Ancient Amphibians

Are you afraid of frogs and toads? What about salamanders? If not, then that's probably because they have already evolved into the small and sometimes even colorful creatures that we see today. If you are, then there's probably some merit into your fear as new research shows the more predatory side of ancient amphibians.

A new research published in the journal PeerJ details how ancient amphibians may have been more terrifying than their modern relatives. As it turns out, ancient amphibians had a full array of teeth, sharp fangs, and thousands of tiny, hook-like teeth on the roof of their mouths, ensuring that whatever goes in won't come out.

Basically, apart from the normal array of teeth and large fangs around the creature's mouth rim, the roof of their mouths, including the soft parts of the palate was entirely covered in thousands of denticles, which are essentially tiny, hook-like teeth, all of which are pointing backward. However, because they protrude from the soft tissue of the palate, they are often lost during fossilization.

Denticles protrude from the sort and hard palate of the ancient amphibians' mouths.
(Photo : Gee, Haridy & Reisz) Denticles protrude from the sort and hard palate of the ancient amphibians' mouths.

A Mouthful Of Teeth

Many vertebrates including mammalian ancestors (synapsids) and modern fish have concentrations of denticles on the hard part of the roof of their mouths. However, temnospondyls, which are believed to be the ancestors of modern amphibians, have denticles on both the hard and soft palates.

Denticles are significantly smaller than normal teeth, and upon examining the 289-million-year-old specimens from the Dolese Brothers Limestone Quarry near Oklahoma, researchers found that denticles are true teeth with the dentine, enamel, pulp, and peridontia.

According to Professor Robert Reisz, Professor of Paleontology at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), this design probably made it easier for ancient amphibians to hold on to prey, and assisted them in swallowing via eyeball retractions similar to what modern amphibians do.

Image A shows the soft palate at rest, and image B represents the palate while feeding.
(Photo : Gee, Haridy & Reisz) Image A shows the soft palate at rest, and image B represents the palate while feeding.

Amphibian Evolution

Now, perhaps the question is how exactly the modern amphibians went from thousands of teeth to no teeth at all during the process of evolution. Further, the biggest question on researchers' minds is the mystery of tooth replacement on the palates, perhaps during maturity or between seasons.

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