Magazine article American Scientist

A Story of Serration

Magazine article American Scientist

A Story of Serration

Article excerpt

The predatory dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era had famously sharp teeth, with zigzag edges. The standard explanation for ziphodonty, as this dental design is known, has been that hollow "ampullae" between the serrations served to dissipate bite stress throughout each tooth and thereby avert breakage. Now a study using thin sections and powerful microscopy has led Kirstin Brink of the University of Torpnto, Mississauga, and her colleagues to put forward a different hypothesis: Structures deep within the tooth, including spindles of enamel reaching all the way to the dentin-enamel junction, may themselves have given rise to the jagged edges. When Brink and her coauthors studied thin slices of theropod teeth under scanning electron microscopy and synchrotron radiation spectroscopy, they saw that what had been considered ampullae were actually areas of globular dentin (the calcified substance beneath the tooth's outer covering of enamel),, interspersed with micrometersized spaces. …

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