Abstract: Modern birds (crown group birds, called Neornithes) are toothless; however, the extinct neornithine Odontopterygiformes possessed bone excrescences (pseudoteeth) which resembled teeth, distributed sequentially by size along jaws.
The origin of pseudoteeth is enigmatic, but based on recent evidence, including microanatomical and histological analyses, we propose that conserved odontogenetic pathways most probably regulated the development of pseudodentition.
The delayed pseudoteeth growth and epithelium keratinization allowed for the existence of a temporal window during which competent osteoblasts could respond to oral epithelial signaling, in place of the no longer present odontoblasts; thus, bony pseudoteeth developed instead of true teeth.
Dynamic morphogenetic fields can explain the particular, sequential size distribution of pseudoteeth along the jaws of these birds. Hence, this appears as a new kind of deep homology, by which ancient odontogenetic developmental processes would have controlled the evolution of pseudodentition, structurally different from a true dentition, but morphologically and functionally similar.
Source: Louchart, A., Buffrénil, V. de, Bourdon, E., Dumont, M., Viriot, L. & Sire, J.Y. 2018. Bony pseudoteeth of extinct pelagic birds (Aves, Odontopterygiformes) formed through a response of bone cells to tooth-specific epithelial signals under unique conditions. Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 12952 (2018).