Meeting Abstract

S3-6  Saturday, Jan. 4 11:00 - 11:30  Plasticity of Vertebrate Dentition KARAGIC, N*; MEYER, A; HULSEY, CD; University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany; University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany; University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

Vertebrate teeth and how they respond to environmental challenges play a crucial role in organismal prey capture and food processing. However, the morphology of teeth is not completely genetically determined as phenotypic plasticity in response to environmental conditions can heavily influence tooth anatomy in various vertebrate species. Plasticity is also highly important in structuring how the dentition, or the entire array of teeth an individual exhbits, function together. For instance, since most vertebrates are polyphydont (e. g. fish) the forces that food items exert on teeth can change during the replacement of old teeth. Some cichlid species are known to adapt to hard food items by increasing the size of replacement teeth for greater force resistance. Other di- or monophydont vertebrates use plasticity seemingly adaptively without replacing their dentition. Monophydont rodents are adapted to the high wear their incisors are subjected to by constantly growing those teeth and effectively sharpening them. Human dentition is also exposed to high degrees of plasticity for example during tooth development where environmental factors such as malnutrition can impact traits such as the timing of tooth eruption. I will discuss these examples as well as general patterns and processes involved in the plasticity of vertebrate teeth. As in few other traits, a better understanding of the plastic nature of teeth and the forces generating these induced phenotypic differences should allow us to better integrate studies of development, evolution, and behavior in both extinct and extant vertebrate taxa.