OPEN PloS one | 28 Nov 2019
MD D'Emic, PM O'Connor, TR Pascucci, JN Gavras, E Mardakhayava and EK Lund
Tooth replacement rate is an important contributor to feeding ecology for polyphyodont animals. Dinosaurs exhibit a wide range of tooth replacement rates, mirroring their diverse craniofacial specializations, but little is known about broad-scale allometric or evolutionary patterns within the group. In the current broad but sparse dinosaurian sample, only three non-avian theropod tooth replacement rates have been estimated. We estimated tooth formation and replacement rates in three additional non-avian theropod dinosaurs, the derived latest Cretaceous abelisaurid Majungasaurus and the more generalized Late Jurassic Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus. We created the largest dental histological and CT dataset for any theropod dinosaur, sectioning and scanning over a dozen toothed elements of Majungasaurus and several additional elements from the other two genera. Using this large sample, we created models of tooth formation time that allow for theropod replacement rates to be estimated non-destructively. In contrast to previous results for theropods, we found high tooth replacement rates in all three genera, with Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus rates of ~100 days and 56 days for Majungasaurus. The latter rate is on par with those of derived herbivorous dinosaurs including some neosauropods, hadrosaurids, and ceratopsians. This elevated rate may be a response to high rates of tooth wear in Majungasaurus. Within Dinosauria, there is no relationship between body mass and tooth replacement rate and no trends in replacement rate over time. Rather, tooth replacement rate is clade-specific, with elevated rates in abelisaurids and diplodocoids and lower rates in coelurosaurs.
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