Everyone knows shark teeth, right? Those big slathering daggers in scary movies?
Uh, no. At least, there’s a lot more to shark teeth than the pop culture stereotypes. Some sharks are enormous – but have the tiniest teeth! Many sharks have different teeth in front compared to the back of their mouths, depending on what they need to chew. Others have different teeth top to bottom. And as sharks grow from small pups, so do their teeth.
At Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we have a fantastic opportunity to study shark teeth, because our aquarists find them all the time when doing cleaning or animal care dives!
Sharks regularly lose teeth – not because they don’t visit the dentist, but because that’s a natural thing for these amazing ocean predators. Unlike humans, all sharks are born with teeth. They grow in conveyor-belt rows, with the biggest teeth facing outwards. Over time, the smaller teeth in the back move up, replacing the front ones. Most sharks have between 5-15 rows, and the whale shark has a whopping 3,000 teeth in its mouth!
But because those teeth aren’t attached to their gums on a root like ours, they lose around a tooth every week. Our aquarists often pick them up while cleaning the floor of the habitat, and they can be a useful guide to monitoring shark health, feeding and growth.
So – do you think you know shark teeth? Click here to play our Shark Teeth Guessing Game to match the tooth to the shark!