From Embryo to Adult: The Complete Development and Unusual Replacement of the Dentition of the Tammar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii)

Qamariya Nasrullah, Marilyn Renfree, Alistair R. Evans

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Unlike their reptile-like ancestors with continuous tooth replacement, mammals have evolved to replace each tooth either only once, or not at all. In previous large-scale comparative studies, it has been suggested that this tooth replacement only occurs from a successional dental lamina produced lingually to the primary tooth. This study aims to document the complete tooth development and replacement pattern of the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). The tammar wallaby is a diprotodont marsupial, a group defined by their two procumbent lower incisors. To provide a comprehensive documentation of the spatio-temporal pattern of tooth development, we used Lugol’s Iodine staining and microCT scanning (diceCT) of embryos and pouch young into adulthood, resulting in high resolution 3D models for both soft and mineralised stages of development for all tooth positions. Our results reveal that the eponymous lower incisors are the successional generation at the third incisor locus, where the primary dentition initiates but never erupts. Furthermore, we track the development of the only replacement tooth, the permanent third premolar (P3), from initiation to eruption, and found it develops from the primary dental lamina, mesial to the dP3. This is contrary to the conventional view of lingual replacement from successional lamina in mammals. Our findings indicate that no functional tooth replacement occurs in the tammar wallaby, and expands the diversity of tooth replacement patterns found in mammals. We also conclude that since almost all marsupial and placental mammals produce replacement teeth from the distalmost deciduous premolar, this tooth should be considered homologous in these two groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515–529
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Mammalian Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022

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