Yes, whale sharks have teeth, though they are not used for feeding. Instead, the teeth are used for grasping and holding onto their prey as they suck it into their mouths.
While the majority of shark species have multi-pointed teeth that are sharp and serrated, whale sharks have tiny, beak-like molars, which they use to crush the plankton they feed on.
Whale sharks can even filter out the water with their mouths open wide enough to fit a person inside! Their unique dentition set is also one reason why whale sharks can feed on plankton without worrying about losing their grip on it. These flat molar-like teeth work much like a sieve, allowing them to capture tiny organisms while keeping larger objects out.
Unlike other shark species that hunt and scavenge for prey, whale sharks rely mainly on passive filtering when catching food.
- The dental formula for a typical adult whale shark is 3/3 (upper jaw) and 3/4 (lower jaw). This means that each side of the upper jaw has three rows of small teeth, while each side of the lower jaw has four rows.
- In total, an adult whale shark will have around 300 to 350 tiny teardrop-shaped molars in its mouth – this is far fewer than many other shark species, which often boast hundreds or thousands of sharp serrated teeth in several rows.
Types of Teeth
The teeth of whale sharks are divided into two distinct types:
1. Dermal Denticles:
These small, tooth-like structures help to protect the skin from damage and parasites. They also provide a hydrodynamic surface for more efficient swimming.
Located at the back of the mouth, these molar-shaped teeth help to crush prey such as shrimp, plankton, and squid before the shark swallows it. Unlike other species of shark, whale shark molars do not have sharp edges or points; they are flat and beak-like.
The number and size of these molars vary among individual whale sharks, depending on their age and feeding habits.
Whale sharks are the largest species of fish in the world, yet their teeth are quite small compared to other shark species. Nevertheless, these minute structures are invaluable in helping whale sharks survive.
Whale Sharks Have Teeth On Their Eyes
While most people know that whale sharks have teeth, many are unaware that they also have denticles around their eyes. These tooth-like structures protect a whale shark’s sensitive eyes, helping to ward off parasites and prevent environmental damage.
In addition to providing visual protection, these unique denticles may help whale sharks detect prey in murky waters. The eye denticles act like tiny antennae, sending signals and vibrations that alert the shark to nearby prey items.
How do their “teeth” work?
- The dermal denticles on the skin help to protect the whale shark from potential predators, parasites, and other external harms.
- The molars at the back of the mouth assist in crushing prey so that the whale shark can swallow it more easily.
- The smooth surface of these molar-shaped teeth allows for efficient suction when feeding on plankton and other small organisms.
- The size and number of these teeth vary between individuals, depending mainly on age and diet. This helps ensure that every whale shark has access to its preferred food source.
- As a result, whale sharks can consume large amounts of food quickly and efficiently. This plays a key role in the species’ survival.
How do whale sharks feed?
- Whale sharks feed mainly on plankton, which they filter from the water using their gills.
- Their wide, flat mouths enable them to take in a large amount of water at once and hold it in place with their dermal denticles. This helps keep the prey inside so it can be swallowed easily.
- The molar-shaped teeth at the back of their mouth also assist in crushing larger prey such as shrimp, squid, and fish before they are ingested.
- Also, whale sharks may swallow small stones or shells to help aid digestion and provide additional nutrition from calcium salts or other minerals found within the rocks or shells.
- By using their teeth this way, whale sharks can feed quickly and efficiently on the small organisms that make up their diet. This helps them to survive in the wild.
The life cycle of whale shark teeth
- Whale sharks are born with dozens of dermal denticles, which protect them from predators and parasites.
- As they age, their molars begin to develop at the back of their mouth. These help to crush prey before ingestion.
- The number and size of these teeth vary between individuals depending on age and diet.
- In adulthood, whale sharks may have up to 300-350 tiny molar-shaped teeth in their mouth – far fewer than many other shark species, which can boast hundreds or thousands of sharp serrated teeth in several rows.
- As the whale shark ages, these teeth may be replaced by new ones that better suit its growing size and diet.
- With its unique tooth structure, the whale shark can consume large amounts of food quickly and efficiently, ensuring that it can survive in the wild. This has enabled the species to become one of the most successful predators in our oceans today.
Thus, even though whale sharks have teeth much smaller than other species of shark, they still play a vital role in helping them survive.
The number and size of these molars vary among individuals, yet they all help the whale shark to feed more efficiently on its preferred diet. These “teeth” provide an excellent example of how evolution has adapted animals to their environment for them to thrive.
How many teeth do a whale shark have?
A whale shark can have up to 300-350 tiny molar-shaped teeth in its mouth. The number and size of these teeth vary between individuals depending on age and diet.
What is the purpose of a whale shark’s teeth?
The molars at the back of the mouth assist in crushing prey so that the whale shark can swallow it more easily. The smooth surface of these molar-shaped teeth also allows for efficient suction when feeding on plankton and other small organisms.
Do whale sharks bite?
Whale sharks have no sharp teeth and cannot bite with force. However, they may occasionally nip or suck on food items as they feed.
Are whale shark teeth replaceable?
As the whale shark ages, its teeth can be replaced by new ones that better suit its growing size and diet. This helps it to feed more efficiently.
Does a whale shark have sharp teeth?
No, whale sharks do not have sharp teeth. They possess molar-shaped teeth at the back of their mouth, which help them to crush prey before ingestion.
From the information above, it can be concluded that even though whale sharks may not have as many or as large teeth as other species of shark, they still have an important role in helping them survive.