Speaker Series 2016: Uncovering the Hidden Dental Diversity of the First Apex Predators to Identify Canada’s “Dimetrodon borealis”

Although often incorrectly identified as a dinosaur, the iconic sail-backed Dimetrodon was actually an ancient ancestor of today’s mammals. Dating back to the Permian Period, 295-272 million years ago, Dimetrodon was one of the first top predators on land and had several characteristics that made it an efficient predator. Foremost among these was a mouth full of large, serrated teeth required for subduing and consuming prey.

In her presentation, Dr. Kirstin Brink from the University of British Columbia provides a close study of the teeth using both histology (cutting open the teeth and using a microscope to identify tissues and structure) and CT scans (to examine the shape of the tooth roots within the jaws). This research revealed many differences in tooth shape between different species of Dimetrodon, and how tooth shape changed over millions of years of evolutionary time. The shape of the teeth of Dimetrodon was also key in the re-identification of an enigmatic fossil collected in 1845 as Canada’s own species of Dimetrodon, Dimetrodon borealis.

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