Tetrapod Teeth and Tales is a blog written by Ian Corfe. I’m a postdoctoral researcher in the Jernvall EvoDevo lab, Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Finland.
In this blog, I’m going to try to:
1 – Show the diversity of teeth and their ‘endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful’ (Darwin 1859 in ‘On the Origin of Species…’. He wasn’t talking specifically about teeth, but I think it’s appropriate)
2 – Examine some of the current scientific research on teeth being carried out by the Helsinki tooth group, from palaeontological studies to evolutionary and developmental biology
3 – Showcase what I feel are interesting recent scientific publications on teeth from the wider research world
What’s a tetrapod, anyway?
The traditional definition of Tetrapoda, or tetrapods, is that they are vertebrates which have limbs with digits (fingers or toes). The name is from the ancient greek for ‘four-footed’. In terms of living animals, this means amphibians (frogs & toads, salamanders, and caecilians) plus amniotes (mammals, birds, crocodiles and snakes & lizards). Snakes and caecilians don’t have limbs or digits, but these have been lost during evolution and both groups evolved from ancestors which did have them and so are grouped with other amniotes. The earliest tetrapods were amphibious animals like Acanthostega and Icthyostega. Recent changes to the way we classify species have led to definitions of Tetrapoda that make more sense to scientists, but perhaps add confusion to discussions at the general public level – see this Tree of Life webpage for more details.
Simply put, pretty much any vertebrate that isn’t a fish is a tetrapod, allowing me to look at a huge range of teeth types in these different and numerous animals! I may even jump outside of Tetrapoda occasionally to look at fish teeth and the origin of teeth, but Tetrapoda alliterated better with the rest of the blog name…