Scanning Electron Microscopy


The enamel ultrastructure of multituberculate mammals has been sampled extensively and studied intensively and is better known than for any other group of early mammals. The enamel of the earliest multituberculates, those of the Late Triassic-Early Jurassic suborder Haramiyoidea and the Late Jurassic-early Early Cretaceous suborder Plagiaulacoidea, is "preprismatic." With only two exceptions, all Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary genera of multituberculates examined have prismatic enamel. Prisms are either small with circular (complete) boundaries or large with arc-shaped (incomplete) boundaries. There is a remarkably consistent relationship between enamel ultrastructural type and subordinal taxa in that small, circular prisms are usually found within the suborder Ptilodontoidea and large, arc-shaped prisms are usually found in the suborder Taeniolabidoidea and in six Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary genera of indeterminate subordinal status.

Research currently in progress suggests that both small, circular prisms and large, arc-shaped prisms are homologous in all multituberculates in which they occur, with one exception. Neoliotomus, a taeniolabidoid, appears to have evolved small, circular prisms independently. In addition, it appears that large, arc-shaped prisms represent the primitive condition in multituberculates with prismatic enamel, not small, circular prisms as has been proposed previously.

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