Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal of Morphology





First Page


Last Page



Atlantic Cutlassfish, Trichiurus lepturus, have large, barbed, premaxillary and dentary fangs, and sharp dagger-shaped teeth in their oral jaws. Functional teeth firmly ankylose to the dentigerous bones. We used dry skeletons, histology, SEM, and micro-CT scanning to study 92 specimens of T. lepturus from the western North Atlantic to describe its dentition and tooth replacement. We identified three modes of intraosseous tooth replacement in T. lepturus depending on the location of the tooth in the jaw. Mode 1 relates to replacement of premaxillary fangs, in which new tooth germs enter the lingual surface of the premaxilla, develop horizontally, and rotate into position. We suggest that growth of large fangs in the premaxilla is accommodated by this horizontal development. Mode 2 occurs for dentary fangs: new tooth germs enter the labial surface of the dentary, develop vertically, and erupt into position. Mode 3 describes replacement of lateral teeth, in which new tooth germs enter a trench along the crest of the dentigerous bone, develop vertically, and erupt into position. Such distinct modes of tooth replacement in a teleostean species are unknown. We compared modes of replacement in T. lepturus to 20 species of scombroids to explore the phylogenetic distribution of these three replacement modes. Alternate tooth replacement (in which new teeth erupt between two functional teeth), ankylosis, and intraosseous tooth development are plesiomorphic to Bluefish + other Scombroidei. Our study highlights the complexity and variability of intraosseous tooth replacement. Within tooth replacement systems, key variables include sites of formation of tooth germs, points of entry of tooth germs into dentigerous bones, coupling of tooth germ migration and bone erosion, whether teeth develop horizontally or immediately beneath the tooth to be replaced, and how tooth eruption and ankylosis occur. Developmentally different tooth replacement processes can yield remarkably similar dentitions.




alternate tooth replacement; bone remodeling; intraosseous tooth replacement; micro-CT scanning; Trichiuridae