How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have? (with 13 examples)

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How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have? (with 13 examples)

If you don’t know anything about shark teeth – prepare to be stunned.

Sharks have a set of very efficient mechanisms to assist with hunting, such as incredible adaptation to the environments in which they hunt. Some are more intelligent than others, but the amount of teeth they have, and the teeth mechanism in sharks is amazing.

How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have? For the most common types of sharks, they have 50 to 300 teeth on average, at any point of time. They lose teeth constantly and keep replacing them, by growing the new ones very fast.

Essentially, they are teeth making machines.

The number of teeth they have depends on the type of shark.

Sharks lose their teeth all the time, but they regrow teeth to replace those that fall out. They lose at least 1 tooth per week, and they are also born with them. Since they live 20 to 30 years on average, that means they will replace teeth many times during the course of their lives.

This is why sharks have on average 20 000 to 35 000 teeth during the course of their lifetime. Some can have up to 50 000, but this is in the extremes.

Why Do Sharks Have So Many Teeth?

Sharks lose their teeth constantly.

One shark tooth can often last only a week, up to a few months.

That’s a short time for a tooth.

When they bite into a delicious meal, they often loose several teeth. Some teeth break, and will fall out, and some get worn out and fall out with a simple bite.

That means sharks can lose from few up to 40 teeth per week.

That’s because shark teeth don’t have roots like our teeth, and are not as strong. They lose them easily, so they need to keep replacing them, also easily.

This is where shark teeth rows come in.

Many types of sharks have teeth layered in series and rows. Rows of shark teeth are counted along the line of the jaw, while series are counted from the front of the jaw inward. A single row has one or more functional teeth upfront, and several replacement teeth behind this.

shark teeth with marked rows and series
Shark Teeth Row (by Kate W – Original file here, CC BY 3.0)

An average number for most sharks is 5 series and 15 rows of teeth.

But, some can have many more. Bull shark, for example, has 50 rows of teeth in 7 series. That’s 350 teeth! (check below)

When the shark loses a tooth in the first row, the skin moves and the teeth in the back immediately goes in to replace the old one, like on a continuous conveyor belt. This can happen in just 24 hours.

Which is why they can create up to 50 000 teeth over the course of their lifetime.

The rate of tooth replacement varies from once every week to several months. Most sharks replace one tooth at a time, as opposed to simultaneous replacement of an entire row, such as in Cookiecutter Shark.

Some shark teeth are very valuable, almost as much as pearls.

Some sharks don’t have as many teeth, and some don’t lose as much. Some are plant eaters and have smaller teeth and different ways of feeding. But for the average carnivore shark, layered teeth is the way to go.

Types of Shark Teeth

There are four basic types of shark teeth:

  • needle-like
  • pointed lower with triangular upper,
  • dense flattened, and
  • non-functional

The types of tooth that a shark has depends on its diet and feeding habits.

Sharks with needle-like teeth mostly feed on small to medium-sized fish. Fish are slippery and narrow, so these teeth are perfect because they can easily grip the fish, squid or stingray. How many needle teeth will depend on the type of shark. Most common type of sharks with needle-like teeth are the blue shark and bull shark.

The combination of pointed lower with triangular upper are especially useful for cutting pray that consists of large mammals and fish.

They cut them into smaller portions then swallow the pieces. Great white sharks have such teeth, and their bite force is incredible. Check below how incredible it is.

Dense flattened teeth crush the shell-like pray, such as crabs and lobsters. Typical examples are angel sharks and nurse sharks. This kind of pray can’t just be punched through with a needle, so these teeth are perfect for that.

The ones that have non-functional teeth are the plankton-eaters, such as basking shark. They are small teeth, not used and such sharks filter feed by opening their mouth for small organisms to get sucked, such as plankton.

Megalodon teeth are often mentioned as well.

These are the largest teeth ever seen in a shark. Megalodons are extinct, but their teeth are the size of a human fist and among the most sought after in the world. some are priced higher than most pearls are. You can even buy one for yourself from Amazon. Note that it’s a replica.

Megalodon Tooth in a person's hand

How Many Teeth Do Various Types of Sharks Have? (and more)

The first sharks appeared in the oceans over 440 million years ago. Today, there are 553 different species of sharks.

Some of them are weird looking (teeth included).

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting ones, the most common types of sharks found across the world, and their teeth in particular.

Great White Shark – How Many Teeth?

Great White Shark with open mouth showing teeth
By Olga Ernst – Own work, image on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

The world’s most feared shark, the great white shark, also known as the killer shark, has one of the strongest bites of all sharks. Great White Shark:

  • Actually has fewer active teeth than many other types.
  • Great white shark has about 50 teeth in use at any point in time, in the first 2 rows, and about 250 of replacement teeth waiting in the back.
  • They have 300 teeth in total
  • Their teeth are highly prized around the world
  • And they can have over 20 000 teeth in its lifetime
  • 2 inch long triangular teeth, with jags on the edges. It bites the pray and sinks the teeth in lower jaw, then closes the upper jaw and trashes its head to tear of chunks of flesh. Ouch!
  • On top of that, their teeth cut easily through flesh and bone
  • Their bite force is crazy high. A study in 2008 calculated the bite force of a great white shark to 18,000N (Newtons) or 4,095lbf (pound of force). To put that into perspective, 18,000N is equal to a heavy car standing on top of you. Now imagine that car having a set of teeth… no? Okay then… Keep reading,
  • Like most sharks, their teeth are continuously replaced, and they never run out
  • If you are interested in reading more about Great White Sharks, there is a great blue book called “The Devil’s Teeth” about surviving among America’s Great White Sharks (very interesting, true story, non-fiction).

Tiger Shark Teeth

Tiger Shark swimming
By Albert kok – Own work, image on wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0

Called “tiger” because of the stripes found mainly on juveniles they have. They have unique teeth, much shorter than of a great white shark but better suited to slice through hard-surfaced prey.

  • Tiger Shark is a perfect predator with teeth like sawblades.
  • Unique teeth, very sharp with powerful jaws that crack shells, clams and sea turtles easily
  • Highly serrated teeth (jagged edge) of a unique look, with sideways-pointing tip specifically developed that cut through flesh and bone, but also turtle shells
  • The tiger shark holds the pray with the bottom teeth, and uses the upper teeth to saw and take the bite out of it. It does this by swinging its head left and right like a saw.
  • Tiger sharks have tooth size is 1.5 to 2 inches on average
  • They have 24 rows of teeth, with each tooth like having several teeth in one place, due to the unique shape

Sand Shark (Gray Nurse Shark)

Sand Shark (Gray Nurse Shark) with open mouth showing teeth
By Stevelaycock21 – Own work, file on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sand shark, also called sand tiger shark, or gray nurse shark, is a carnivore of 6.5 to 10.5 feet, and one of the most terrifying looking sharks out there (as you can see from the picture). However, they’re not as vicious as they appear, they’re actually submissive.

  • Sand shark has 3-4 rows of teeth, totaling in more than 150
  • Sand shark teeth are needle-like, highly adapted for impaling fish and similar pray, such as stingrays
Sand Shark Teeth example
Picture : Emmanuel Douzery, Own work, file on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Their long, narrow and sharp teeth are sticking out in every direction, even when the mouth is shut. They’re very unnerving to look at, one might say, but they are quite docile, and will attack humans only in self-defense.
  • Their teeth size is around one inch

Bull Shark

Bull Shark showing teeth with open mouth
Picture by Shelby Zeigler

Bull shark is one of the most dangerous in the world. This is a shark with quite a lot of teeth, will easily attack humans and visit shallow waters. If it wasn’t for all the teeth they have, I wouldn’t worry, but…

  • How many teeth does bull shark have? Bull sharks have 50 rows of teeth in 7 series, that’s 350 teeth total, including both teeth in use and “replacements”
  • They use bump-and-bite technique to attack prey: after the first contact with the prey, they keep to bite and tackle it, until they are unable to flee.
  • Their lower teeth are slightly different than upper ones, same with front and back teeth. Both are triangular, but the upper ones are wide, heavily jagged, while the lower ones are narrow and finely jagged.
  • This allows them to attack and eat all kinds of pray, from bony fish (such as sunfish) to small sharks, sea turtles and crabs.
  • They have a bite force of 5,914N (Newtons) or 1,330lbf (pounds of force) (source)

Shortfin Mako Shark

Shortfin Mako Shark with open mouth showing teeth

With their knife-like pointy teeth, Shortfin Mako Shark (also called “blue pointer”) has one of the largest brain to body ratios. Very intelligent type of sharks.

  • Their teeth are long and protrude from their mouth in larger specimens, even when the mouth is closed
  • Their large, hook-like teeth have razor-sharp edges, arranged in 12 rows
Shortfin Mako Shark Teeth up close example
By Joxerra Aihartza – Nire argazki-bilduma / own picture, FAL, file at wikimedia.org
  • It’s such a fast shark that it can swim 25 mph constantly, with bursts up to 46 mph
  • Furthermore, it has been shown that Smallfin mako can adjust the orientation of its denticles to regulate induced drag, which helps the animal to manoever at high speed

Goblin Shark

Goblin Shark model with open mouth and teeth showing
By Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria – fishesofaustralia.net,
file on wikimedia.org, CC BY 3.0 au

This nightmare-ish looking shark, looks like something straight out from a horror movie. And what a name! It’s one of my favorites, being a fan of RPGs, it immediately reminds me of Oblivion and Skyrim. And what about that “lovely face”? Forget about it!

But, let’s get back to sharks, and leave gaming for later. This shark, also called a “living fossil”, is not only scary because of the looks, but also because:

  • First, it has an extendable jaw… A “what” jaw? You heard it, extendable – it gives them some extra bite,
  • and 2nd, it has nail-like and long front teeth for stabbing and catching prey, and small and flattened teeth at the back for crushing.
  • What more do you want? A perfect nightmare.
  • Goblin Sharks have about 60 to 115 teeth in total: 35-53 in the upper jaw, and 31-62 in the lower jaw.(Source)
  • Three rows of front teeth on each side of both jaws, separated by a gap from the back teeth
  • Their jaws fetch high prices from collectors

Hammerhead Shark

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark swimming with open mouth showing teeth
By Kris Mikael Krister, CC BY 3.0

Hammerhead sharks are a group of sharks, named for their unusual structure on their heads that looks like a hammer. Duh. They live 20 to 30 years, and can grow up to 20 feet in size. What else:

  • Hammerhead sharks have various types of teeth, depending on their specie
  • Smaller bonnethead sharks have thicker, flattened crushing teeth and pray on crabs and similar, while large hammerhead sharks have bladelike teeth and pray on larger fishes, squid and similar.
  • Their teeth are serrated (jagged edges) and triangular in shape
  • They have several series of teeth, and number varies from species to specie

Cookiecutter Shark

Cookiecutter shark with open mouth showing teeth
Those are real teeth, not plastic. They really look like this.

With the ability to cut a perfectly circular chunk of flesh with their lower saw-like teeth, the Cookiecutter Shark is unique, in that:

  • It’s a very small shark of 16.5-22in (42-56cm) but has around 60 saw-like teeth for cutting out perfectly circular shapes in prey.
  • It grabs the prey with the upper teeth, then cuts with the lower teeth by spinning its body to remove a “cookie-shaped” chunk of flesh. The prey leaves with a perfectly round cookie cutter-shaped hole in its body
  • Cookiecutter doesn’t lose teeth individually like other sharks. It sheds its teeth in a single row, swallowing the bottom teeth, most likely to maintain the high amount of calcium in the body

Nurse Shark

Nurse Shark swimming
By Stevelaycock21 – Own work, file on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

Nurse sharks have the simplest type of tooth arrangement found in sharks. Here is why:

  • There is no overlapping between the teeth
  • Forward movements of teeth leading to shedding does not depend on other teeth. For most sharks, they can only replace teeth when the adjacent “blocking” teeth are also lost. But not for nurse sharks.
  • And, interestingly, their teeth replacements occur faster in summer, when water temperatures are higher.
  • Just like many other types of sharks, their teeth are tiny and serrated, and they will bite defensively if bothered by divers

Frilled Shark

Frilled Shark with open mouth showing teeth
By © Citron, image on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0

As you can see from the image, Frilled Shark is something special. The teeth are strangely arranged, why is that?

  • The teeth number is around 300 for the frilled shark
  • The teeth in the frilled shark are shaped like this (in the picture) because it’s perfect for catching soft-bodied squid. They’re long, many and needle-like. When it catches something, nothing gets out.
  • Such recurved teeth are functionally similar to squid jigs, and can easily snag the body or tentacles of a squid.
  • Interesting fact: they often swim with their mouths open, and because of how they look, light teeth against the dark mouth, it can fool the squid into attacking and entangling themselves.

Filter-Feeders

These are the type of sharks that don’t use their teeth much (if at all), but they do have many of them. There are only 3 known types of shark that are filter-feeding: Whale Shark, Basking Shark, and Megamouth Shark. All three have similarities, but still look quite different.

Whale Shark

Whale Shark with open mouth feeding on plankton

A record holder in many areas for size, whale sharks can be extremely large, but since they are filter feeders, they pose no threat to humans or other larger animals.

  • Incredible as it sounds, whale shark has over 300 rows of tiny teeth
Whale Shark Teeth example
Whale Shark Teeth
  • Being a filter feeder (eats small organisms), they have very small teeth, tiny and pointed backward,
  • Whale sharks’ teeth play no role in feeding, they are non-functional
  • Tiny teeth, but largest shark – whale shark is the largest shark in the world

Basking Shark

Basking Shark with Open Mouth swimming and feeding

One of the most curious looking sharks out there, basking shark, has very small teeth inside it’s enormous mouth, which it uses to catch small organisms. Eats mostly zooplankton and small fish.

  • Basking shark has hundreds of tiny teeth
  • Often has 100 teeth per a single row
  • tiny hooked teeth, the ones in the center of the jaws are low and triangular, while those on the sides are cone-shaped and slightly recurved
  • Compared to their very small teeth (only 0.2-0.24 inches in length, or 5-6mm) is their enormous size, being the 2nd largest shark in the world

Megamouth Shark

Megamouth Shark example with open mouth showing teeth
From WA Maritime Museum. Image on wikimedia.org

This shark is so rare, there has only been about 70 sightings of it, ever. As the name implies, megamouths have mega mouths. Well, large mouths, and very small teeth. Similar to the other 2 filter feeders, the Basking and the Whale sharks, it feeds on planktons mostly.

  • Megamouth sharks have up to 50 rows of teeth in the upper jaw, and up to 75 in the lower jaw. That’s 1, 2, 3… a lot of teeth.
  • However, only 3 rows of teeth are usable.
  • Females usually have fewer teeth than males

It’s an extremely rare shark to be caught on camera.

Here is the video of the Megamouth Shark:

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