Prehistoric Shark Hid Its Largest, Sharpest Teeth

Prehistoric Shark

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With mouths closed, the older, smaller sized teeth of the forefathers these days’s sharks stood upright on the jaw, while the more youthful and bigger teeth pointed towards the tongue and were hence unnoticeable when the mouth was closed. Credit: Christian Klug, UZH

Some, if not all, early sharks that lived 300 to 400 million years ago not just dropped their lower jaws downward however turned them outwards when opening their mouths. This allowed them to reconcile their biggest, sharpest, and inward-facing teeth when capturing victim, paleontologists at the Universities of Zurich and Chicago have actually now revealed utilizing CT scanning and 3D printing.

Many modern-day sharks have row upon row of powerful sharp teeth that continuously grow back and can quickly be seen if their mouths are simply a little opened. But this was not constantly the case. The teeth in the forefathers these days’s cartilaginous fish (chondrichthyan), that include sharks, rays, and chimeras, were changed more gradually. With mouths closed, the older, smaller sized, and broken teeth of sharks stood upright on the jaw, while the more youthful and bigger teeth pointed towards the tongue and were hence unnoticeable when the mouth was closed.

Jaw restoration thanks to computed tomography

Paleontologists at the University of Zurich, the University of Chicago, and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden (Netherlands) have actually now analyzed the structure and function of this strange jaw building based upon a 370-million-year-old chondrichthyan from Morocco. Using calculated tomography scans, the scientists were able not just to rebuild the jaw, however likewise print it out as a 3D design. This allowed them to mimic and check the jaw’s mechanics.

What they found at the same time was that unlike in people, the 2 sides of the lower jaw were not merged in the middle. This made it possible for the animals to not just drop the jaw halves downward however at the exact same instantly turn both outwards. “Through this rotation, the younger, larger, and sharper teeth, which usually pointed toward the inside of the mouth, were brought into an upright position. This made it easier for animals to impale their prey,” describes very first author Linda Frey.  “Through an inward rotation, the teeth then pushed the prey deeper into the buccal space when the jaws closed.”

Jaw joint extensive in the Paleozoic age

This system not just made certain the bigger, inward-facing teeth were utilized, however likewise made it possible for the animals to participate in what is called suction-feeding. “In combination with the outward movement, the opening of the jaws causes sea water to rush into the oral cavity, while closing them results in a mechanical pull that entraps and immobilizes the prey.”

Since cartilaginous skeletons are hardly mineralized and typically not that well protected as fossils, this jaw building has actually averted scientists for a very long time. “The excellently preserved fossil we’ve examined is a unique specimen,” states UZH paleontologist and last author Christian Klug. He and his group think that the explained kind of jaw joint played an essential function in the Paleozoic age. With progressively regular tooth replacement, nevertheless, it ended up being outdated gradually and was changed by the frequently strange and more complicated jaws of modern-day sharks and rays.

Reference: “A symmoriiform from the Late Devonian of Morocco demonstrates a derived jaw function in ancient chondrichthyans” by Linda Frey, Michael I. Coates, Kristen Tietjen, Martin Rücklin and Christian Klug, 17 November 2020, Communications Biology.
DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-01394-2

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