Phase dynamics of cyclic reptilian tooth replacement

Speaker: Laurent MacKay

Date: Wed, Jan 10, 2024

Location: PIMS, University of British Columbia

Conference: Mathematical Biology Seminar

Subject: Mathematics, Mathematical Biology

Class: Scientific


For over a century, scientists have studied striking spatiotemporal patterns during the continual tooth replacement of reptiles. Aside from the compelling aesthetics of this phenomenon, it is thought that understanding the underlying mechanisms may provide the insight required to trigger adult tooth replacement in humans. Theoretical frameworks have long been proposed to understand the rules behind the observed spatiotemporal order, but have only been analyzed mathematically more recently. Starting from Edmund's observations in crocodiles and proposed theory of replacement waves, we show how a simple model consisting of a row of non-interacting phase oscillators predicts several experimental observations. Next, inspired by the hypothesis put forth by Osborn, we consider a variation of the phase model with ODEs that account for mutual inhibition between tooth sites, and use continuation methods to thoroughly search parameter space for experimentally validated solutions. We then extend the model to a PDE that explicitly accounts for the diffusion of inhibitory signals between teeth, yielding some novel solution types. Using continuation methods once again, we delineate parameter regimes with solutions that closely resemble experimental observations in leopard geckos.