The enamel that protects our teeth may have evolved from the scales of ancient fish, a new study published in the journal Nature says.
Enamel resembling a tissue called guanine that is found on the scales of many fossil and primitive fish. But enamel is only found on our teeth.
When scientists studied fossils of two primitive bony fish from the Silurian Period, some 400 million years ago, they found that there was an enamel coating their scales, but none on their teeth.
Only millions of years later did fish evolve to use enamel to make teeth harder and stronger.
“This is important because it is unexpected. In us, enamel is only found on teeth, and it is very important for their function, so it is natural to assume that it evolved there,” said palaeontologist Professor Per Erik Ahlberg of Sweden’s University of Uppsala.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.