How easy is it to look at a shark tooth and tell what kind of shark it came from? Not as easy as you might think!
For a start, there’s no relationship between the size of a shark and the size of its teeth. There are over 440 different species of sharks, ranging in size from the huge Whale Shark, which can grow to more than 18 metres in length, to the Dwarf Lanternshark, which rarely grows to more than 18 centimetres.
Despite being the largest species of sharks, Whale Shark feeds using gill rakers that filter and trap tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans called krill. The infamous Great White, much smaller at only 5 metres in length, has large pointed teeth, 7 or 8 centimetres long, perfect for gripping and tearing its fishy prey.
To make identification even harder, many sharks have differently shaped teeth on their upper and lower jaws, and males and females of the same species can also show differences in tooth shape and size.
Find out the different types of shark teeth
Like human teeth, shark teeth are covered in hard enamel, but unlike our teeth, shark teeth are easily replaceable.
For example, Tiger Sharks have 24 rows of razor-sharp, serrated teeth that are not embedded in the jawbone, but are attached instead to the skin of the mouth. The skin acts as a ‘conveyor belt’, moving new teeth forward when teeth in the front row are damaged or lost, and a Tiger Shark can grow as many as 30,000 teeth during its lifetime.
At S.E.A. Aquarium, you can get some idea of the amazing variety of shark teeth in our S.E.A.A. Wonders: Shark Adventure Trail, where we have a wide range of replica teeth on show.
Our friendly team will be happy to explain why different teeth are shaped like they are, and how tooth shape and size show us what sharks eat. They can show you sharp needle-like teeth that hunters use for tearing and cutting flesh, and plate-like teeth that crustacean eaters use for crushing shells.
See shark feeding sessions at S.E.A. Aquarium
It’s not just shark teeth you can see at S.E.A. Aquarium. We also have over 200 live sharks from 20 different species at the Aquarium, and each day our aquarist team prepares and feeds a wide variety of food for them, from large bony fish to squid, crunchy mussels, and clams.
The team uses two different methods to feed the sharks
• For fast-swimming hunters, the food is scattered in the water so they can seek out their meal as they would in the open ocean.
• For bottom-dwelling sharks, they are hand-fed as they usually lie motionless and ambush their prey.
You can see all of our sharks being fed at designated times throughout the day.
Curious? Check out this Shark Feeding video from our aquarist team!