STL Science Center

STL Science Center

14 June 2013

You and Your Strange Teeth

©Nobu Tamura
The "Different Toothed Lizard", or Heterodontosaurus tucki, was a small, about the size of a golden retriever, mostly herbivorous ornithischian. Possessing three forms of teeth, leaf and stem stripping teeth at the front of the mouth, large canine shaped tusks behind these and tall square grinding and chewing teeth in the rear of the mouth, it is likely that Heterodontosaurus had a varied diet. The front teeth are designed to tear and strip plant matter more than anything else and was the most likely use for them. The tusks  have been indicated as fulfilling display purposes as well as being used to break open more difficult to get into food sources, such as termite mounds. A fleshy cheek is proposed to have existed to help the rearmost teeth do their job of grinding and crushing food items. Additionally, the hands of Heterodontosaurus were special in that they had five fingers and seem to have had opposable digits, giving them hands much like ours which can manipulate and hold food items. Heterodontosaurus was discovered in South African and is an early Jurassic dinosaur (existing approximately 199 million years ago). It has quite a few characters that resemble more advanced dinosaurs but also has many older characters which we will discuss.

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