What’s often the first thing you think of when you think of a shark? Probably the dorsal fin gliding and cutting through the water like a perfectly sharp knife. The second thing? Probably their teeth, lurking from their wide-open mouths, cutting through their prey like a perfectly sharp knife.
Quick Facts and Information On Shark’s Teeth
- The shark tooth is probably one of the best fossils on the planet for us to learn about prehistoric sharks as they are often the only part of the shark that has survived.
- Sharks do not get cavities.
- Sharks have multiple rows of teeth, depending on the species. They usually only use the first row, but some can use the first 8 rows (yes, 8 rows!).
- Shark teeth are not embedded in the jaw, but in the skin covering the jaw.
- Venice, FL, calls itself the “shark tooth capital of the world.”
- Teeth move through the mouth like a conveyor belt. When one is lost, the one behind it moves up.
- Some sharks can lose up to 30,000 teeth in their lifetime.
- The coating of a shark tooth is acid-resistant.
- Many sharks have different tooth-types, different uses, and different shapes, but there are 4 basic types of shark teeth.
- Baby sharks are born with complete sets of teeth.
The 4 different types of teeth belong to different types of sharks and correlate with the 4 different types of shark diet.
- Those sharks with huge, gaping, tooth-filled mouths are found in many of the sharks that are famous, such as the Great White Shark and the Tiger Shark. They need those broad, sharp, serrated cutting teeth because they feed on seals and other animals. Their teeth often have a curved, can-opener type shape so they feed by tearing off chunks of flesh.
- Sharks who have less-than-perfect smiles are those with smaller and rather useless teeth. These are the filter-feeders who eat krill and other forms of plankton by sucking them into their mouths with large gulps of water. The water is then filtered back out and the little fishes become dinner. These are the gentle giants of the ocean and include the Basking Shark and the Whale Shark.
- Some sharks have narrow, needle-like teeth that are prefect for hunting small fish and squid. Since these teeth are not made to rip or tear like the big guys, sharks like this stick with morsels that are smaller than their mouths. The teeth are like fish hooks that grab the slippery prey and hold it. Sand Tiger Sharks are a perfectly toothy example.
- Bottom feeding sharks hang out on the ocean floor and scoop up crustaceans and mollusks for lunch. They don’t have as many teeth as the rest of the gang, but their teeth are very large, strong, and slab-like so that they can crush those hard shells. Examples of these sharks are Nurse Sharks and Wobbegongs.
Here’s The Skinny On Shark Skin
Now that you have a bit more information on a shark’s bite, we’ll move on to their skin. Many people think that all sharks are the same color: plain gray. But though many sharks are grey, or have a grey base, there are many different colors and patterns when it comes to the 470+species of shark out there. When thinking about color schemes, consider this skin-formation on sharks:
- Lemon Sharks are yellow, with some brown or olive pigmentation
- Zebra Sharks are striped when young and spotted as they get older
- Copper Sharks are copper (or bronze) on top with a white belly
- Goblin Sharks are pinkish-grey to pale pink in color
- Leopard Sharks have distinct spots and saddle-like markings
Those are just some of the differences in the shark family. One thing that they all have in common despite their different shades is that their tops are often darker and their bottoms are lighter. A darker top helps a shark blend into the sea bottom better when viewed from above, and a lighter belly helps them blend in with the light when their prey looks up toward the surface. Bottom-dwelling sharks, like the Nurse Shark or the Wobbegong, are browner in color to match the sand so they can feed undetected.
What Does Skin Have In Common With Teeth?
The skin of a shark is not only very thick, it is also very unique. Instead of having traditional fish scales, a shark has tiny, hard scales that are like miniature teeth that cover its skin. These little scale-teeth have a pulp cavity, dentine, and even an outer layer of enamel. This makes the skin of the shark extremely tough and durable. Sometimes the scales are so sharp that other sea creatures can become injured just by brushing up against them.
The way these scales are placed actually help sharks swim faster through the water, streamlining their path and reducing turbulence. This happens as the water is channeled through the grooves and flows down a shark’s body. All of the scales point back toward the tail of a shark, so if you ever have the amazing opportunity to pet a shark, be sure to go head-to-tail. Running your hand in the other direction could result in discomfort or injury, depending on the shark.
Sharks really are amazing creatures of the sea. With teeth and skin like that, it’s no wonder that they are the kings of the ocean.