Prehistoric predator had 'steak knife' teeth, Canadian researchers say

Dimetrodon. (University of Toronto/Handout)

Dimetrodon. (University of Toronto/Handout)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:42 PM ET

The first predators to walk on land had teeth like steak knives, a University of Toronto study has found.

Graduate student Kirstin Brink and Prof. Robert Reisz said Friday that Dimetrodon, a carnivore that existed between 298 million and 272 million years ago, was the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop serrated teeth.

Published in Nature Communications, the paper says ziphodont teeth produced a more efficient bite and would have allowed Dimetrodon to eat prey much larger than itself.

While most meat-eating dinosaurs possessed ziphodont teeth, fossil evidence suggests serrated teeth first evolved in Dimetrodon some 40 million years earlier than theropod dinosaurs, the authors say.

Brink and Reisz studied the changes in Dimetrodon teeth across 25 million years of evolution.

“Technologies such as scanning electron microscope (SEM) and histology allowed us to examine these teeth in detail to reveal previously unknown patterns in the evolutionary history of Dimetrodon,” Brink said on the university's site.

Brink and Reisz say the predator was also the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop cusps – teeth with raised points on the crown, which are dominant in mammals. The study also suggests ziphodont teeth were confined to later species of Dimetrodon, indicating a gradual change in feeding habits.


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