Although oral dental tissue is a vertebrate attribute, trunk dental tissue evolved in several extinct vertebrate lineages but is rare among living species. The question of which processes trigger dental-tissue formation in the trunk remains open, and would shed light on odontogenesis evolution. Extra-oral dental structures (odontodes) in the trunk are associated with underlying dermal bony plates, leading us to ask whether the formation of trunk bony plates is necessary for trunk odontodes to emerge. To address this question, we focus on Loricarioidei: an extant, highly diverse group of catfish whose species all have odontodes. We examined the location and cover of odontodes and trunk dermal bony plates for all six loricarioid families and 17 non-loricarioid catfish families for comparison. We inferred the phylogeny of Loricarioidei using a new 10-gene dataset, eight time-calibration points, and noise-reduction techniques. Based on this phylogeny, we reconstructed the ancestral states of odontode and bony plate cover, and find that trunk odontodes emerged before dermal bony plates in Loricarioidei. Yet we discovered that when bony plates are absent, other surface bones are always associated with odontodes, suggesting a link between osteogenic and odontogenic developmental pathways, and indicating a remarkable trunk odontogenic potential in Loricarioidei.
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