Fascinating Fish Facts: Do Fish Have Teeth? Do They Use Them?

Anamika Balouria
Feb 22, 2023 By Anamika Balouria
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Fancy carp or Koi fish swimming at pond in the garden.

Fish are often kept as pets in an aquarium or tank to replace their natural surroundings of the sea.

Fish species have different types of teeth, while some lose and replace their teeth, such as goldfish. Fish species have teeth of their own type; some have molars, some have canines, while some have incisors.

Fish are marine species that belong to the subphylum of Vertebrata. Around 99% of fish species belong to the class of Actinopterygii, while 95% belong to the teleost sub-grouping.

Fish are cold-blooded aquatic creatures who adjust their body temperature according to their needs and breathe through gills. According to research, it is assumed that there are around 34,000 fish species in the world.

The fish's evolution is dated back to 530 million years ago, around the Cambrian explosion. The Agnatha, or jawless fish, was one of the first vertebrates. The coelacanth is a fish species found in South African seas that is thought to have survived since the time of dinosaurs, i.e. over 100 years.

The fossils recovered date back to 410 million years ago. These species had true enamel caniniform teeth on their lower and upper jaws. Only two species exist in the world now.

If you enjoy reading this fun facts article about fish with human teeth, then do read some other interesting and surprising fun facts articles right here with Kidadl. We think that you may enjoy reading about how do fish mate and can fish see in the dark.

What do you call fish teeth?

Fish teeth are called pharyngeal teeth. Fish teeth, along with fish jaws, are called pharyngeal jaws.

The fish tooth shape varies in size depending on each species. Some fish species have both molars and incisors. A few of them have either molars or incisors.

The pharyngeal arch has pharyngeal teeth in the throats of cyprinids, suckers, and other species of fish. Aquarium fish, such as goldfish, molas and loaches, have pharyngeal teeth. Apart from that, few fish species have teeth on their lips close to their mouth openings.

Do all fish have teeth?

Almost all species of fish have teeth, but a few of them do not have teeth, such as sea horses, pipefish, and adult sturgeon.

Different species of fish have different types of teeth, such as the sheepshead fish, which has molars in two rows in the lower jaw and three rows in the upper jaw.

Sheepshead fish have incisors in front of their jaws and grinding teeth at the back to chew food properly. Pacu fish, a close relative of the piranha, have small square teeth for eating their food, while piranha teeth and jaws are sharp and draw out blood from the skin of humans, similar to a sharks' sharp teeth.

Sheepshead fish teeth are human-shaped teeth inside the lips of this fish species.

Herbivorous Fish Teeth

Herbivorous fish, such as parrotfish, rabbitfish, and marblefish, have many different types of shaped teeth.

Herbivorous fish food is mostly made up of aquatic marine vegetation such as reef algae, fruits, vegetables, and other aquatic plants. These fish's teeth are designed in such a way that they help these fish, which are found near coral reefs, to chew and break down their diet while swimming.

These herbivorous fish mostly use their incisor teeth like birds use their beaks. Parrotfish have 1000 teeth in 15 rows to make a beak-like structure near their mouth.

They have a second set of teeth near their pharyngeal jaw. Marblefish have multi-cusped teeth in their small jaws.

Rabbitfish do not have teeth and prefer to have tooth plates rather than teeth. The rabbitfish's teeth plates are joined together by jaw cartilage.

Carnivorous Fish Teeth

Sharks, piranhas, and tunas are some of the carnivorous fish species that have sharp canine teeth and incisor teeth.

Humans try their best to stay away from carnivorous fish species, especially if they see a shark, because they will probably prey on anything which is swimming around them. Carnivorous fish prey on other small animals of aquatic environments and might even bite humans in deep water, with the threat of being attacked.

Their canine teeth are used to grab prey, while their incisors are used to chew any caught aquatic species' flesh.

A few of the carnivorous fish species have molar teeth, which are flat and large for crushing their food of shells, such as crabs and snails.

They eat small fish meat such as shrimp, snails, and other small crustaceans. Shark species are cannibalistic animals that probably eat anything around them.

Do fish have tongues?

A fish's tongue is not similar to the tongue of humans, but they do have a tongue.

Different types of fish do not have a muscular tongue, which is formed from the lower base of the mouth and not from the upper. In bony fish species, the tongue has teeth to hold their prey so that they do not lose their grip.

Glossanodon fish species have tongue teeth that look like those found in the mouth. The tongue cannot raise from the base level as it does in the case of humans.

Some fish species can be seen not grinding their food; they just hold the food to suck the blood of their prey. This is mostly evident in tongue biters.

Are fish teeth like human teeth?

Yes, some fish teeth look like human teeth. This is the case with the sheepshead fish species, which is typically found in North Carolina.

Sheepshead fish are omnivorous and have teeth that are similar to human teeth. To crush their prey, sheepshead fish have many rows of molar teeth in their upper and lower jaws. Even the name of this fish species comes from the interesting shape of their teeth.

The mouth of a sheepshead fish looks similar to the mouth of a sheep. Sheepshead fish teeth are made up of enamel and dentin. Sheepshead fish feed on aquatic plants, small crustaceans, and invertebrates, among other things.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 'Do fish have teeth?', then why not take a look at 'How often to feed fish?' or 'Meagre fish fun facts for kids'?

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Written by Anamika Balouria

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

Anamika Balouria picture

Anamika BalouriaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

A dedicated and enthusiastic learner, Anamika is committed to the growth and development of her team and organization. She holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English from Daulat Ram University and Indira Gandhi Institute for Open Learning respectively, as well as a Bachelor of Education from Amity University, Noida. Anamika is a skilled writer and editor with a passion for continual learning and development.
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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

Pradhanya Rao picture

Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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