The improbable complexity of equid dentition


horse teeth

Equus caballus photo in the Public Domain

horse skull

Equus caballus skull photo © PD-self 


The teeth of the domestic horse are well-documented but poorly interpreted biologically. Instead of simply growing throughout life to replace wear, equid teeth achieve durability in surprisingly complicated ways. An entire lifetime’s worth of tooth mass forms by adulthood in equids, with the volume of the dentition stored inside the massive jaws occupying a volume of dental sockets collectively exceeding the volume of the cranium. As the chewing wears down the surfaces over a 20-year lifespan, the teeth compensate by gradually recoiling from the dental sockets. And there remains a need to create newly mineralised tissues because the bottoms of the sockets – vacated by this continuous ‘eruption’ of the teeth ¬– are reconfigured by breakdown and reconstruction of the bone.
Robin and the Honey Badger, 8 January 2017