Anatomy of a Shark Tooth

Sharks are one of the world’s most dangerous oceanic predators. Movies like JAWS show us just how dangerous they can be. There are many different species of shark that can be found in oceans all over the world. They eat a variety of animals including fish and sea lions. So what allows them to grab and eat larger prey without much effort? Their razor sharp teeth can cut through almost anything like a knife. But what makes a shark’s tooth so dangerous? Their teeth are made of calcium phosphate, a very tough material. But a shark can actually shed their teeth thousands of times throughout their lifetime, growing new ones in their place. Sharks like the nurse shark have teeth that are very dense and flat. These kinds of teeth can crush a crab or other shelled animal with one bite. The bull shark has smaller, needle like teeth that are made to chew through fish and squid, or even other smaller species of sharks. Many sharks have more than one row of teeth, and the lower teeth are pointed, while the upper rows of teeth are triangular shaped. These triangular shaped teeth are specially designed to kill and eat prey. Some sharks can actually have as many as 15 rows of teeth in each jaw! The bull shark has as many as 50 rows of teeth. On average, sharks can lose at least one tooth each week of their life. They can grow a brand new tooth in as little as 24 hours. Sharks cannot get cavities and instead, they just shed their teeth as needed. Once a baby shark has a complete row of teeth, he will venture out on his own away from his mother to begin looking for food. A shark is a very independent animal and relies heavily on its teeth for survival in the ocean waters.

Fossilized Tooth of Extinct Mako SharkNot all sharks have extremely sharp and scary teeth. In fact, the whale shark and basking shark are both unique sharks because these species do not have a normal sharklike tooth. Instead, they have filters in their large mouths that are a lot like how a whale uses its mouth to gather up small plankton to eat. They have over 3,000 tiny little teeth in their mouth that are not used for chewing, but used as a filter instead. Just like humans, sharks have something called dentin inside of their teeth, which is a soft tissue-like material. They are also covered in hard enamel which is also very similar to humans. In fact, shark and human teeth are equally strong, but definitely not equally sharp. Many scientists rely on the teeth of sharks to learn more about the ones that lived in prehistoric times. Their teeth can give them insight into the size of the animal as well as what it might have eaten. A now extinct shark called the Megalodon had huge teeth that were three times bigger than a great white’s. Shark teeth are very popular to trade, collect and sell, and the Megalodon teeth are some of the most valuable. People once used shark’s teeth as weapons or spear heads thousands of years ago because they are so sharp and strong. They were also used as tools that helped to cut food, carve wood, and dig with. Even though they look scary, the teeth sharks have proven to be useful for both the shark and for humans. Venice, Florida, is known as the “shark tooth capital of the world” because there are more shark teeth found there than anywhere else, and they even have an annual shark tooth festival. You can look for your very own shark teeth by going beach combing, especially when it is low tide. They are often found in places like California and Australia. Many people like to make jewelry such as necklaces from shark’s teeth. The more we learn about sharks, the more we know how important they are when it comes to the environment and the world around us.


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