Scanning Microscopy


We present some recent developments in our understanding of two basic questions: the origin, extent, nature and course of marsupial enamel tubules; and the characterisation of monotreme enamel, more particularly, the prismatic nature of platypus enamel.

Methods used included SEM of methacrylate casts of marsupial enamel tubules, worn and cut surfaces of whole marsupial teeth, developing and erupted platypus teeth, and a well-developed molar of the newly discovered Miocene ornithorhynchid Obdurodon sp., and tandem scanning reflected light microscopy of intact marsupial teeth.

We conclude that there are significant species differences with respect to prism shape, row formation and tubule disposition in marsupials and, moreover, that these features change in a consistent way through the thickness of the enamel. Consideration of enamel prism course in incisor and molar enamel of Macropus eugenii, together with the tubule casts, enables us to conclude that there is a fundamental relationship of tubule to prism in the body of marsupial enamel. This and previously reported data put beyond dispute the essential relationship of the marsupial tubule to the formative ameloblast.

The enamel of Ornithorhynchus anatinus is shown to be prismatic only in part, with well-formed regular prisms not being a primary structural feature. The enamel of the fossil monotreme is prismatic and tubular and displays large areas of Pattern 2 prism packing. Monotreme enamel has been interpreted as representing a structural stage intermediate between that of known multituberculates and extant tribosphenid mammals.

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