Scanning Microscopy


The nature and relationship of crystallite domains have been explored in fossil and extant enamels spanning an evolutionary period of 200 x 106 years. Minor crystallite orientation discontinuities, either linear or planar, were found to be consistent characteristics of all specimens examined.

The earliest minor discontinuity is linear (convergence line), shown here in Oligokyphus and Eozostrodon. The convergence line would be the result of the occasional development of a conical Tomes' process to the parent ameloblast. An increase in number and regularity of convergence lines, shown here in Haldanodon, marks the appearance of a regular pseudoprismatic enamel structure.

The second minor discontinuity to appear is planar (seam), shown here in a dryolestid eupantothere. The seam has previously been deduced to relate developmentally to a central groove on the sloping floor-wall of the Tomes' process pit.

Coincident with the appearance of the seam is that of a rudimentary major planar discontinuity which does not enclose a domain to constitute what would normally be acknowledged as a prism. Its developmental basis would be the establishment of a steep wall and floor (however partial in circumference) to the Tomes' process pit.

The extent of the major planar discontinuities was found to increase subsequently to enclose a classically recognizable prismatic domain, shown here in Amphiperatherium, Hassianycteris, Smilodon and Felis. This would be consistent with the further development of a definitive floor and wall to the Tomes' process pit.

The sequential appearance of minor linear, minor planar and major planar discontinuities in crystallite orientation is seen as fundamental to the evolution of mammalian enamel structure.

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