Ancient pre-historic fish were the first to develop teeth for hunting.
A 410-million-year-old fossil of what is believed to be the first-known animal to have teeth was recently discovered.
The fossil came from an extinct species of armored fish called Romundina stellina. Some older remains of these and similar species have been found before, but none with their jaws or teeth.
The teeth were found to be very small, but in vast quantities. They were made of similar materials our teeth are made of: enameloid and dentine.
Martin Rucklin of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and his colleague, Phillip Donoghue from the University of Bristol, are leading the study into the fish’s tooth plate. They are using powerful computers with thousands of x-rays to reconstruct how these teeth were formed.
“Our data shows that teeth and scales of Romundina are made of the same tissues, and these are also found in our teeth,” explained Rucklin. “This is in agreement with the idea that scales evolved first and the teeth derived from them.”
What course of evolution caused them the need to develop these teeth is still a mystery. They believe the fish was an active predator that hunted close to the water’s surface.
“Jaws and teeth are needed to process larger food items, and Romundina represents a predator that was able to swim actively in the water column hunting.” said Rucklin.
Other theories suggest that it was due to an evolutionary race between jawless and jawed ocean predators to be at top of the food chain. Their research has found that teeth and jaws developed separately as teeth came from scales, and jaws from bone.
Rucklin and his researchers recently received a five-year grant to further their research. They plan to answer as many questions as they can as to what events spurred the need for some many species, including our own, to develop the need for both jaws and teeth.
A full published report on their findings can be read on Biology Letters.