Article: Origins and biomechanical evolution of teeth in echinoids and their relatives
Echinoid teeth are without doubt the most complex and highly specialized skeletal component to have evolved in echinoderms. They are biomechanically constructed to be resilient and tough while maintaining a self-sharpening point. Based on SEM analysis of isolated tooth elements collected primarily from the Ordovician and Silurian of Gotland, we provide a detailed structural analysis of the earliest echinoderm teeth. Eight distinct constructional designs are recognized encompassing various degrees of sophistication, from a simple vertical battery of tooth spines to advanced teeth with multiple tooth plate series and a reinforced core of fibres. These provide key data from which we reconstruct the early stages of tooth evolution. The simplest teeth are composed of stacked rod-like elements with solid calcite tips. More advanced teeth underwent continuous replacement of tooth elements, as a simple self-sharpening mechanism. Within echinoids tooth design was refined by evolving thinner, flatter primary plates with buttressing, allowing maintenance of a sharper and stronger biting edge. Despite the obvious homology between the lanterns of ophiocistioids and echinoids, their teeth are very different in microstructural organization, and they have evolved different self-sharpening mechanisms. Whereas echinoid teeth evolved from a biseries of mouth spines, ophiocistioid goniodonts evolved from a single series of mouth spines. Rogeriserra represents the most primitive known battery of tooth elements but its taxonomic affinities remain unknown.