Sharks are known for being some of the most fierce and ferocious animals in the world. One of the main reasons for their success as predators are their teeth. These razor-sharp, triangular structures are used to rip through enemy and prey alike and are also known for making trendy necklaces. Let’s have a detailed look into the anatomy, number, and identification process of shark teeth.
How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have?
It is no secret that shark teeth are tremendously important to a shark’s lifestyle. At any given time, a shark will have about 3000 teeth, which is approximately 10 times more teeth than the average human! However, shark teeth are not as permanent as human teeth and sharks continue losing and replacing teeth during all of their lifespans.
A shark can actually go through 30,000 teeth throughout its entire lifetime! These teeth follow shifting seasons; because sharks hunt and eat more during summer, this is when they lose and replace most of their teeth. Although sharks still do follow their regular feeding habits during the other seasons, summers see a significant increase in their feeding.
What Is The Anatomy Of Shark’s Teeth?
Shark teeth are unique in several ways. When looking at human teeth as well as most other animals with teeth, one common characteristic is the way in which the teeth are fastened. Most toothed animals’ teeth are rooted to the gums and the actual jawbone. Sharks, on the other hand, have teeth that are embedded within their gums as they don’t actually have bones.
Shark teeth come in different shapes and sizes
This physiological trait allows their teeth to be replaced more easily and efficiently, with minimal pain or discomfort. There is a special groove in a shark’s jaw where their rows of teeth undergo this process of replacement, and for the average shark, there are usually five rows of teeth.
How To Identify Shark Teeth?
Shark teeth are most easily identified by their shape and across species, there are subtle differences in shape.
For a predatory, ferocious shark such as the great white, teeth can be sharp, wedge-shaped, and wide, with a serrated edge. Such a structure is best suited for grabbing and tearing prey apart.
For those sharks that are not as fierce but still predatory, teeth are usually thinner and sharper with finer tips. Examples of these sharks would be the lemon or mako sharks, and this shape of teeth is ideal for catching and gripping smaller and slippery fish.
Sharks that usually stick to the bottom of the ocean, such as the nurse shark or angel shark, have thick, conical teeth located in the back of their mouths. Such a shape is specialized for crushing tougher prey, like crabs and other various mollusks found on the ocean floor. In short, identifying shark teeth becomes easier when you know what you’re looking for. The good thing is that even across species, teeth have a general, identifiable shape.
Why Are Shark Teeth Black?
When in a shark’s mouth, shark teeth are white. When on a necklace, shark teeth are also white. So why is it that, when found on a beach, shark teeth are typically black? Well, as we mentioned before, shark teeth are known for their transitory nature, and they are in a constant process of loss and renewal.
The journey of a shark tooth from the shark’s mouth to the beach is long and tumultuous. Once the tooth falls out, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, where it usually gets covered by sand. The ocean’s sand is not just sand, however, and is rich in grains of minerals.
Over time, the buried tooth will absorb these minerals and eventually develop a darker, black color. By the time it reaches shore — if it ever does — the tooth will have gone through this process a countless number of times, and as such, it is dark and nothing like the white you’d expect it to be.
The Bottom Line
Sharks usually possess around 3000 teeth, which undergo loss and renewal. Some sharks have sharp teeth while some have flat-dense teeth, depending on their feeding habit. If you want to collect shark teeth, you’ll have to look out for them on the beaches where sharks are common. However, it is usually hard to find the teeth of certain shark species.