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The development and biomechanics of theropod teeth and comparisons with other reptiles: a functional analysis Open Access


Other title
enamel microstructures
varanid lizard
functional analysis
multivariate analysis
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Reichel, Miriam
Supervisor and department
Currie, Philip J. (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Murray, Alison M. (Biological Sciences)
Gingras, Murray K. (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Caldwell, Michael W. (Biological Sciences)
Zelenitsky, Darla K. (Geoscience)
Department of Biological Sciences
Systematics and Evolution
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Teeth are important for taxonomic studies. They are often the only remains found of certain vertebrates in the fossil record. This is because they are more resistant to weathering than most bones, they are small, and they are generally abundant. Most reptiles have homodont dentition, and the study of their teeth was neglected for a long time due to the lack of structures that facilitate their taxonomic identification. Recently it has been shown that many reptiles have teeth with morphological traits that reliably allow them to be identified to a narrow range of taxonomic groups. Additionally, the study of function and morphometrics of teeth in theropods and other reptiles has shown potential for understanding feeding behaviors. The objectives of this thesis are to describe the function and biomechanics of theropod dinosaur teeth, and compare them to other reptiles. Detailed analyses of histological sections of theropod and varanid lizard teeth show that in both taxa carinal development starts before enamel deposition. A concentration of dentinal tubules near the posterior carinae of all taxa may be related to the presence of larger carinae and denticles on the posterior side of teeth. Finite element analyses of tooth crowns of tyrannosaurids, varanids and Stegosaurus, plus the enamel microstructures in various reptile teeth show that an increased bending resistance is observed in taxa with labiolingually thickened teeth and columnar enamel microstructures. Additionally, the morphometric analyses of tyrannosaurid teeth, and the variation of carinal placements along the tooth rows help quantifying heterodonty. The highest degree of heterodonty was found in Tyrannosaurus, and this could be a result of the gigantism observed in this taxon. In conclusion, carinae (and denticles) develop in a variety of different taxa for reasons including phylogenetic relationships, tooth proportions, and tooth biomechanics. Also, heterodonty in tyrannosaurids is quantifiable, and each tooth family produces teeth that are specialized for different functions. The innovative techniques developed for these studies allowed a new approach to the study of reptile teeth. As the search for good modern analogs to fossil taxa continues, comparisons with distantly related taxa show great potential for functional analyses, besides taxonomic studies.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Reichel, M. 2010. The heterodonty of Albertosaurus sarcophagus and Tyrannosaurus rex: biomechanical implications inferred through 3-D models. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 47: 1253–1261.Reichel, M. 2010. Case study: a model for the bite mechanics in Stegosaurus (Ornithischia, Stegosauridae). Swiss Journal of Geosciences, 103: 235–240.

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