Shark With No Teeth: What Shark, Why, And Detailed Facts


Pop culture has instilled in us that sharks are toothed monsters, thanks to films like The Jaw. Also, why not? Have you ever seen a shark with its mouth open, darting toward its prey?

Depending on the species, sharks may or may not have sharp teeth. Yet, sharks and sharp teeth are almost always synonymous. This is because these predators would be impossible to imagine without teeth. And there are numerous interesting facts about shark teeth.

Shark With No Teeth
Image Credit: Basking sharks are filter feeders from Maxpixel

However, this article will focus on sharks that lack (sharp) teeth. That said, some sharks have no teeth and do not evoke the image of a perfect shark in our minds. Still, they are true sharks belonging to the group of elasmobranch fish.

So, without further delay, let us investigate the facts about sharks with no teeth or toothless sharks lurking beneath the surface of our oceans.

Do all sharks have teeth?

Image Credit: Great white shark by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pxhere

It is a fact that we cannot imagine sharks without their unearthly grin. But is it true that all sharks have to have teeth? Let’s find out.

All shark species do not possess conical and sharp teeth. In fact, it is not very difficult to spot “toothless” shark species. And you might find it interesting that basking and whale sharks do not possess any sharp teeth but filter to swallow plankton.

However, it might intrigue you more to learn that sharks without conventional teeth do not possess baleens like baleen whales. They also possess teeth but in very different shapes. 

Is there a shark without teeth?

Sharks are placed at the summit of the predator list, at least in the marine world. With the devastating jaw powers and shark teeth, they can tear through the flesh of their prey in no time.

Some sharks do not fit in the toothed category. There are toothless sharks that do not possess star-like sharp teeth. Instead, they have tiny teeth and filter pads, using which they filter large amounts of tiny plankton to eat daily. 

Not all sharks have sharp teeth. As a result, shark species that feast on tinier plankton possess smaller rows of teeth, but they are very seldom used for chomping.

Do megamouth sharks possess teeth?

Image Credit: Megamouth shark Megachasma pelagios by opencage (CC BY-SA 2.5) from Wikimedia

Deepwater sharks are megamouth sharks. They do not usually prefer to come to the surface of the water. Hence, they are almost an enigma for scientists. 

Megamouth sharks are the smallest filter-feeding shark species, with 50 rows of small teeth on their jaws. However, scientists cannot confirm how they feed on plankton because no one has ever witnessed the process.

Despite this, research on their skeleton and anatomy has revealed that these sharks can expand their mouths to massive proportions. This enables them to consume nearly 150 gallons of water in a single glug.

What is the purpose of teeth in filter-feeding sharks?

Any shark enthusiast would know that not all sharks are vicious predators. Instead, some prefer to be docile and feed on smaller, almost microscopic, ocean creatures. 

The filter-feeding sharks do not use their teeth to capture or chew prey. Instead, they rely on filter-feeding, i.e., sieving microscopic creatures from ocean water through filter pads. 

What sharks have no teeth?

Sharks that feed on tiny planktons swim with their mouth open to gulp in as much food as possible. These sharks need to filter large gallons of water to take in food.

Sharks species like the whale and basking sharks are categorized as sharks with no teeth. However, it is not that they do not possess teeth at all. On the contrary, they have tiny teeth that are not used for tearing through the flesh of their prey. 

These sharks have gill rakers, which they use as filters to sieve zooplankton, invertebrates, and smaller fish. In addition, toothless sharks have wider mouths that can stretch up to 4 feet wide to gulp in gallons of water per swim. 

What do toothless sharks have in place of teeth?

When we talk about toothless whales, one thing that strikes our minds is what do they possess in place of their teeth? Let’s find out.

Sharks that are filter feeders are not devoid of teeth. But, yes, they are devoid of sharp conical teeth. Instead, these sharks possess many teeth that are tiny and not used for chewing food. 

In this regard, we must mention that whale sharks and filter feeders possess vestigial teeth and twenty filter pads that act as strainers to sieve food from the ocean water. 

Do sharks with no teeth possess baleen plates?

Much like baleen whales, some sharks feed on small plankton, fish, and invertebrates. They do not possess sharp teeth. But do they have baleen plates to filter their food?

Sharks with non-functional teeth do not possess baleens. They have teeth but not like that of toothed sharks. Their teeth are much smaller and look like conical cusps. These whales swallow their prey as a whole. 

Sharks that feed on plankton are suction filter feeders and use their gill rakers to filter food from the water. On the other hand, baleen whales possess baleen plates made of keratin and help filter food. 

Which shark does not use teeth to eat?

Image Credit: Whale shark from Pxhere

Although most sharks prefer to use their teeth to puncture and tear through the flesh of their prey, some species do not use their teeth to eat.

Shark species like basking and whale do not use their teeth to eat. Although they have thousands of minuscule teeth, they do not use them for chewing their prey. Instead, they use their teeth to filter plankton, small fish, and invertebrates. 

In other words, we can state that these sharks possess non-functional teeth. Along with these two shark species, scientists have also discovered a shark with no skin and no teeth- catsharks. 

Why do whale sharks have no teeth?

Although named whale sharks, these are not whales but true sharks. These sharks have large mouths, which they use to filter and feed on small plankton. 

It’s not that whale sharks don’t have teeth. Rather, they have extremely small teeth that are used to filter rather than chew. Whale sharks do not require sharp teeth because they peruse tiny plankton and fish eggs from the ocean. In addition, they must filter a large amount of water to absorb the nutrients, so they have up to 3000 tiny non-functional teeth.

We must remember that sharks’ teeth are shaped by their diet. Hence, if we see the diet of different sharks, we would be able to decipher the reason behind the shape and size of their teeth. And the same thing goes for whale sharks. 

Why do basking sharks have no teeth?

Much like whale sharks, basking sharks are also counted under filter feeders. But the question that often fascinates us is why these sharks do not possess teeth?

Basking sharks possess tiny and curved teeth, looking like conical cusps, that they no more use to grab prey. There are six rows of tiny teeth along the inner layer of their upper jaws and nine rows in their lower jaws. They have 1,500 teeth in total.

Basking sharks have teeth on both sides of their jaws that are identical. One reason for basking sharks’ tiny teeth is their diet, which is very different from that of toothed sharks. They are plankton-eating species that swim with their mouths wide open to scoop in the most water at once.

Summary

The conclusion of our post highlights the fact that there is no toothless shark. Some sharks have sharp teeth, and there are those with tiny cusp-like teeth. So, sharks we think do not possess teeth, since they are filter-feeders, actually possess them. However, they do not use their teeth for any practical purpose of grabbing prey or chewing them.

Atrayee

I am Atrayee, I have extreme passion for the Animal Kingdom and I have written a large number of articles for animal behaviors. I am an Animal Lover by nature and own two Cats.
Exploring new things through learning and unlearning is something that intrigues me a lot. I spend my free time with my husband and two cats. I must say I get to learn a lot of wise things from them! You can catch me on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/atrayee-samaddar-06886567/

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