Birds ‘Lost Their Teeth’ Over 100 Million Years Ago – Scientists


What happened to birds’ teeth? Since the time a fossil of the ancient bird Archaeopteryx was discovered in 1861, scientists have realized that the avian ancestors once had teeth while birds today lack those pearly whites. But the exact time birds “lost their teeth” has remained a mystery — until now. The Huffington Post has more:

A new study suggests that the common ancestor of all living birds lost the ability to produce teeth, and the answer to exactly how this happened can be found in modern-day birds’ genes.

or the study, the researchers examined the genomes of 48 living bird species, taking a close look at six genes associated with tooth formation. What did they find? It turns out that all of the bird species share genetic mutations that inactivate genes involved in the formation of both tooth enamel and the portion of the tooth called dentin.

Based on the mutations, the researchers think that a common ancestor of the birds lost the enamel caps on its teeth around 116 million years ago. And around that same time, birds’ beaks came into play.

“We propose that this progression ultimately resulted in a complete horny beak that effectively replaced the teeth and may have contributed to the diversification of living birds,” study co-author Dr. Mark Springer, a biology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said in a written statement.