Pufferfish and Humans Share Same DNA for Teeth

Pufferfish have a unique dental structure that is not found on any other type of fish. Mature pufferfish have four dental plates at the front of their mouth; two on top and two on the bottom. This structure is commonly referred to as a beak, because the teeth bear a resemblance to the beak of a bird. The beak is an evolutionary design that allows pufferfish to crush and slice their prey. The beak makes it possible for them to capture and eat prey they would not be able to consume otherwise.

What Is Special About Pufferfish Teeth

Pufferfish start out with teeth normal for fish. Over time their front teeth wear away. At the same time their initial front set of teeth are wearing away, a replacement set begins to form. Dental bands, made from the same material as their initial teeth form and continue to overlap on top of one another. There are four distinct groupings of bands; each corresponds to the new four front teeth of the fish. Bands continue to form until eventually these new teeth, or rather dental plates, take the place of the worn away teeth.

Research Leads to Revelation Concerning All Vertebrae

A study from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences found that the beak, or dental plates of the pufferfish evolved from the same DNA as human teeth. The goal of this project was to learn how the beak of the pufferfish formed. The study was led by Dr. Gareth Fraser and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Search for Additional Clues

Research has found that there is dental regeneration potential for all vertebrate. Essentially, it is common for vertebrates to lose teeth and grow new teeth. This particular study found that in the case of pufferfish and other vertebrates, including humans, the same stem cells are used to regenerate teeth.

Researching Other Species Garners Better Understanding of Humans

Researchers hope that this finding will help to better understand human tooth loss. Lead researcher, Dr. Fraser explained, “The fact that all vertebrates regenerate their teeth in the same way with a set of conserved stem cells means that we can use these studies in more obscure fishes to provide clues to how we can address questions of tooth loss in humans.”


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