Forma, Vol. 10 (No. 3), pp. 259-280, 1995
Original Paper

Modelling the Wave-Like Initiation of Tooth Primordia in the Alligator

P. Kulesa and J. D. Murray

Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Washington, P.O. Box 352420, Seattle, WA 98195-2420, U.S.A.

(Received May 4, 1995; Accepted December 20, 1995)

Keywords: Tooth Primordia, Pattern Formation, Alligator, Modelling

Abstract. We propose a model mechanism for the initiation and spatial positioning of tooth primordia in the alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. Detailed embryological studies (Westergaard and Ferguson, 1986, 1987, 1990) have shown that jaw growth plays a crucial role in the developmental patterning of the tooth initiation process. Based on biological data we develop a dynamic patterning mechanism, which crucially includes domain growth. The development of the spatial pattern, which occurs on a timescale comparable to jaw growth, gives rise to a wave-like initiation of tooth primordia. The mechanism can reproduce the spatial pattern development of the first seven tooth primordia in each half jaw of A.mississippiensis. The results for the precise spatio-temporal sequence compare well with experiment. Simulation of the model also predicts that certain transplantations can significantly alter the spatial sequence of tooth primordia initiation.