The dental morphology and tooth replacement pattern of Liaoceratops yanzigouensis, the earliest known neoceratopsian, are important for our understanding of the evolution of the ceratopsian dental system. Here we describe the dental morphology and tooth replacement of Liaoceratops yanzigouensis based on high-resolution computed tomographic (CT) scan data of three specimens including the holotype, the first study for basal ceratopsian. The three-dimensional reconstructions reveal some important new information, including: three teeth in the premaxilla in one side, two more teeth in the dentary than in the maxilla, incipiently developed mesial grooves on some crowns, two generations of replacement teeth within some tooth families; and most functional teeth were under heavy resorption by the replacement process, but still remained functional. Comparisons of tooth pair positions from opposite sides in the four jaw quadrants of three specimens revealed a degree of bilateral symmetry in replacement pattern. Reconstruction of Zahnreihen yields an avergae z-spacing of 2.58 with simultaneous front-to-back tooth replacement. Our study presents the earliest evidence of derived neoceratopsian traits of the complex dental batteries in ceratopsids. Most significantly, our models reveal the tracts of partially resorbed functional teeth which appears to track the growth of the jaws, traits previously undocumented in Ceratopsia.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Feng Yun for helping 3D reconstruction work. The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number: 41120124002).