According to a press release from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, researchers from the institution's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences focused on tooth development in the deadly fish and found that after the first generation of teeth the program for continued tooth replacement modifies to form a distinctive and unusual beak.

The study is the first of its kind to analyze the unusual beak of the pufferfish.

“It goes beyond fishes and even morphological novelty; we can use the pufferfish beak as a model for a simplified tooth replacement system – composed of just four continually replacing teeth that make up the beak structure,” says Dr. Gareth Fraser, lead researcher on the project.

As Fraser suggests, people only replace their teeth once and the knowledge gained from further research into the genetic foundation of tooth replacement can help with advancements in dental therapies.

The release states that the research compiled the dental development throughout all stages of the pufferfish's growth, from the production of initial-teeth to the construction of its distinctive beak.

“The beak structure is made from many bands of dentine, stacked together, each band represents a new replacement 'tooth' and they can have more than seven separate bands,” Fraser says. “It is an example of re-specification of its genetic tool-kit for tooth development toward a very, alternative, and unique dentition.”

The paper is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and was carried out in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London and King's College London.