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How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have

Sharks’ teeth are arranged in series; when one tooth is damaged or lost, it is replaced by another. Most sharks have about 5 rows of teeth at any time. The front set is the largest and does most of the work.

A bull shark might have 50 “rows” of teeth, with 7 teeth in each “row” (one for each series). This would therefore be 350 teeth (approximately, since some rows might be incomplete). On average, sharks can lose about 30,000 teeth in a lifetime. An average lifespan for a shark may be about 30 years.

Shark teeth are embedded in the gums rather than directly affixed to the jaw, and are constantly replaced throughout life. Multiple rows of replacement teeth grow in a groove on the inside of the jaw and steadily move forward in comparison to a conveyor belt; some sharks lose 30,000 or more teeth in their lifetime. The rate of tooth replacement varies from once every 8 to 10 days to several months. In most species, teeth are replaced one at a time as opposed to the simultaneous replacement of an entire row, which is observed in the cookiecutter shark.

Tooth shape depends on the shark’s diet: those that feed on mollusks and crustaceans have dense and flattened teeth used for crushing, those that feed on fish have needle-like teeth for gripping, and those that feed on larger prey such as mammals have pointed lower teeth for gripping and triangular upper teeth with serrated edges for cutting. The teeth of plankton-feeders such as the basking shark are small and non-functional.

The most ancient types of sharks date back to 450 million years ago, during the Late Ordovician period, and they are mostly known from their fossilised teeth. The most commonly found fossil shark’s teeth are, however, from the Cenozoic (the last 65 million years).

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