With around 3,000 razor-sharp teeth, the shark truly is an apex predator. Its teeth are vital when hunting for its prey, and are incredible tools for grabbing, tearing, and killing its unsuspecting meal.
As such an intriguing part of the shark’s anatomy, we’ve compiled a list of the most fascinating facts about shark teeth.
Fact 1: How Many Rows of Teeth Do Sharks Have?
A shark’s teeth grow in several rows, around five on average, in a specially adapted groove in its jaw.
They are embedded into its gums rather than being rooted in the jaw, like the majority of toothed animals. This means they often fall out during hunting, but they do so without pain or discomfort for the shark.
This unique characteristic of a shark’s teeth means that they are regularly replaced, and done easily due to the positioning of the teeth in the gum. Some species of shark can even replace entire rows of teeth at a time.
Fact 2: What are a Shark’s Teeth Made of?
Shark teeth are the only part of the shark that is composed of bone matter. This means that they are most likely to be fossilized after a shark’s death, allowing researchers to discover information about past and present species.
Essential details about sharks have been discovered thanks to shark teeth fossils, including information about the ancient Megalodon and its feeding, migrating, and mating habits.
The teeth of a shark are placoid scales that resemble human teeth where they have a central pulp cavity with dentine and an outer layer of enamel.
Shark teeth develop on the inner jaw cartilage, attached to the shark’s dental membrane, starting at the crown cap, followed by the root.
Shark teeth are also covered in fluoride, so are naturally resistant to decay. This self-cleaning feature keeps a shark’s teeth strong and ready to hunt its prey.
Fact 3: How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have in Their Lifetime?
During a shark’s lifespan, it will lose and replace over 30,000 teeth. More of these teeth are lost and replaced during the summer months, as they are more active then than during the winter.
Warmer conditions mean the shark will feed and hunt more.
As their teeth are lost, they will be replaced while the back rows move forward to take the place of the front row.
Fact 4: What Do Sharks Teeth Look Like?
The shape of a shark’s teeth varies depending on the species of shark and its specific requirements. Most sharks do not chew their feed, but instead use their teeth as weapons to grab, hold, and rip their prey apart.
The Great White Shark has sharp, wedge-shaped teeth that have serrated edges, so they can easily tear their prey into bite-sized pieces.
However, species like the Mako shark have thin, needle-sharp teeth that are ideal for catching and keeping hold of fish.
Bottom-dwelling sharks, like the Angel Shark, have thick, flat teeth at the back of their mouth for crushing crabs and other mollusks that are found on the ocean floor.
Some sharks have little need for teeth. For example, the Whale Shark feeds on plankton, therefore its food is passed through large filters and then swallowed, so there are fewer teeth in its mouth.
Sharks have a reputation for being dangerous, which they are!
However, they are almost harmless to humans. Their incredible teeth are for feeding and hunting other ocean animals, not you!
Often collected by passing fishermen, shark teeth are an interesting feature of every species of shark.