Calling all orthodontists. . .

From Mexico City, at the 60th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Fossils recently unearthed in Madagascar show that modern dental techniques evolved much too late. Alas, some dinosaurs had uncorrected buckteeth.

Most of the teeth in a newly described species of theropod were serrated and curved slightly toward the rear of the mouth. This pattern is typical for such dinosaurs, says Scott D. Sampson, a paleontologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

However, sockets for the first four teeth on each side of the animal’s V-shape lower jaw point forward to varying degrees. The foremost tooth was conical and would have grown almost horizontally, Sampson says.

The cone-shaped front teeth would have been useless for tearing and slicing. Instead, Sampson says, they likely grasped and punctured small prey, which the rear teeth then shredded.

Sampson and his colleagues have recovered fragments of 10 dinosaurs that together represent the animal’s skull and about 40 percent of its skeleton. The small-bodied, bipedal theropod, which was about 6 feet long, was closely related to similar dinosaurs found in Argentina and India. The bizarre arrangement of teeth in this species, however, sets it apart from those relatives and from all other theropods.

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