Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Oldest known toothache? Infection in jaw of ancient reptilian fossil revealed

Date:
April 18, 2011
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
A reptile that lived 275-million years ago in what is now Oklahoma is giving paleontologists a glimpse of the oldest known toothache.

This fossil reveals evidence of missing teeth, bone destruction and dental disease.
Credit: Reisz R R et al (2011). Osteomyelitis in a Paleozoic reptile: ancient evidence for bacterial infection and its evolutionary significance. Naturwissenschaften -- The Nature of Science.

A reptile that lived 275-million years ago in what is now Oklahoma is giving paleontologists a glimpse of the oldest known toothache.

Led by Professor Robert Reisz, the chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, scientists found evidence of bone damage due to oral infection in Paleozoic reptiles as they adapted to living on land. Their findings, published online in the journal Naturwissenschaften -- The Nature of Science, predate the previous record for oral and dental disease in a terrestrial vertebrate by nearly 200 million years.

"Not only does this fossil extend our understanding of dental disease, it reveals the advantages and disadvantages that certain creatures faced as their teeth evolved to feed on both meat and plants," says Reisz. "In this case, as with humans, it may have increased their susceptibility to oral infections."

The researchers investigated the jaws of several well-preserved specimens of Labidosaurus hamatus, a 275-million-year-old terrestrial reptile from North America. One specimen stood out because of missing teeth and associated erosion of the jaw bone. With the aid of CT-scanning, Reisz and colleagues found evidence of a massive infection. This resulted in the loss of several teeth, as well as bone destruction in the jaw in the form of an abscess and internal loss of bone tissue.

As the ancestors of advanced reptiles adapted to life on land, many evolved dental and cranial specializations to feed more efficiently on other animals and to incorporate high-fiber plant leaves and stems into their diet. The primitive dental pattern in which teeth were loosely attached to the jaws and continuously replaced, changed in some animals. Teeth became strongly attached to the jaw, with little or no tooth replacement. This was clearly advantageous to some early reptiles, allowing them to chew their food and thus improve nutrient absorption. The abundance and global distribution of Labidosauris and its kin suggest that it was an evolutionary success.

However, Reisz and his colleagues suggest that as this reptile lost the ability to replace teeth, the likelihood of infections of the jaw, resulting from damage to the teeth, increased substantially. This is because prolonged exposure of the dental pulp cavity of heavily worn or damaged teeth to oral bacteria was much greater than in other animals that quickly replaced their teeth.

Reisz notes that human susceptibility to oral infection has some parallels to those of ancient reptiles that evolved to eat a diet incorporating plants in addition to meat. "Our findings suggest that our own human system of having just two sets of teeth, baby and permanent, although of obvious advantage because of its ability to chew and process many different types of food, is more susceptible to infection than that of our distant ancestors that had a continuous cycle of tooth replacement."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert R. Reisz, Diane M. Scott, Bruce R. Pynn, Sean P. Modesto. Osteomyelitis in a Paleozoic reptile: ancient evidence for bacterial infection and its evolutionary significance. Naturwissenschaften, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-011-0792-1

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Oldest known toothache? Infection in jaw of ancient reptilian fossil revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110418114202.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2011, April 18). Oldest known toothache? Infection in jaw of ancient reptilian fossil revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110418114202.htm
University of Toronto. "Oldest known toothache? Infection in jaw of ancient reptilian fossil revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110418114202.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) A Spanish cannon used in the Battle of New Orleans and weighing nearly 3 tons was lowered Tuesday by pulleys, chains and muscle onto a new gun carriage like one that might have held it once aboard a navy ship. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins