Growth and hard tissue remodelling in the dentition of the Australian lungfish, Neoceratodus forsteri (Osteichthyes: Dipnoi)



The extant lungfish, including three genera, the Australian, South American and African lungfishes, retain a dentition that appeared first in the Devonian, in some of the oldest members of this group. The dentition consists of permanent tooth plates with persistent cusps that appear early in development of the fish. The cusps, separate early in development, form ridges that are arranged in a radiating pattern, and fusion of the cusps to each other and to the underlying jaw bone produces a tooth plate. The lungfish dentition is based on a template of mantle dentine that surrounds bone trabeculae enclosed in the tooth plate. The mantle layer is covered by enamel. In most derived dipnoans, this framework encloses two further forms of dentine, known as interdenteonal and circumdenteonal dentines. The tooth plates grow in area and in depth without evidence of macroscopic resorption of dentines or of enamel. Increase in size and changes in shape of lungfish tooth plates is actually achieved by a process involving microscopic remodelling of the bone contained within the margin of each tooth plate, and the later addition of new dentines and enamel within and around the bone. This is accomplished without creating weakness in the structural integrity of the tooth plate and bone complex, and proceeds in line with growth and remodelling of the jaw bones attached to the tooth plates.