Why are palaeontologists so interested in mosasaur teeth?

Mosasaurs have a special place in my heart. I worked on them for my Master’s degree, but I also re-visited them as a PhD student. This post explores how mosasaur teeth became some of the most thoroughly studied among any reptile, and how the findings from the debates surrounding them have inadvertently re-shaped our understanding of dental evolution. This is also a story about the origin of my PhD thesis! Continue reading

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Dinosaur Dentistry, Part 3: steak knives and dental batteries

In the third and final entry about the Dinosaur Dentistry event held at the University of Alberta, I wanted to talk about what makes studying dinosaur teeth so interesting. I’ve pointed out previously how at a fundamental level dinosaur teeth and human teeth are built from the same building blocks. That’s because the teeth in dinosaurs and mammals are made of the same dental tissues: enamel, dentine, and the periodontal tissues. Sure, there are differences in the thicknesses and arrangements of these tissues around a given tooth, but the tissues themselves are the same. But what this entry focuses on are some of the creative ways that dinosaurs used these dental tissues to make some very different and complex structures. This is a story about steak knives and dental batteries! Continue reading

Dinosaur Dentistry, Part 2: Aaron vs. a Dinosaur

As I mentioned in the previous post, on September 22nd, 2018, I gave a presentation at the University of Alberta at an event called Dinosaur Dentistry. My talk was on the ins and outs of dinosaur teeth. This talk focused on the tissues that make up a dinosaur tooth and how they compare to the tissues in our own pearly-whites. What follows is an excerpt from that talk and a more…creative take on how to show the differences and similarities between dinosaur teeth and our own in a post I like to call “Aaron vs. a Dinosaur”. Continue reading

Dinosaur Dentistry, Part 1: what do dinosaurs and dentistry have in common?

On September 22nd, 2018, I gave a 45-minute talk for about 200 people at an event hosted by the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The event was the brainchild of a well-known anthropologist and dental specialist, Dr. G.H. Sperber and included talks from two other professors, Dr.’s Philip J. Currie and Peter Ungar. It was a great experience for me personally and professionally, because it was the first time I have presented my work on the evolution and development of teeth (dinosaur teeth in this case) to a crowd of dentists and developmental biologists (as well as the general public) with interests in clinical dentistry. In putting my talk together and chatting with people during interviews and meetings leading up to the big day, I had an epiphany. Continue reading