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Sharks With No Teeth Do They Exist?

shark with no teeth
Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When people think of sharks, they think of sharp teeth and a fearsome reputation, but with more than 1,000 species of shark, is there a possibility that there are sharks with no teeth?

Find out in this toothy article.

Are There Any Sharks With No Teeth?

Whale sharks have tiny teeth and do not use them for feeding.

All sharks have teeth, but it depends on the species of shark on what teeth they have as there are four different kinds of shark teeth: serrated, triangular, needle-like and non-functional.

Tiger sharks have serrated teeth where one side of the tooth is designed to cut with the other for sawing their prey’s flesh. The great white shark has triangular-shaped teeth on its upper jaw. In comparison, its lower teeth are more pointy. The sand tiger shark has teeth that are long, slender, and needle-like.

Filter-feeding sharks have teeth, but they are tiny and are not used for biting or tearing flesh like the teeth of other shark species, so they are non-functional teeth. Filter-feeding sharks, such as the whale and basking sharks, feed on plankton by swimming with their mouths open and filtering water through their gill rakers.

One thing all sharks have in common about their teeth is that they regrow. Over time, the smaller teeth at the back grow and move up, replacing the ones in front that fall out or get damaged.

Three Sharks That Do Not Use Their Teeth To Hunt or Feed

Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)

Simon Pierce / MarineMegafauna, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The whale shark is a slow-moving, filter-feeding shark and the largest fish species in the world, with the biggest growing up to 12 m (39 ft) in length and weighing over 19,000 kg (41,888 lbs). They have broad, flattened heads with enormous mouths that can open up to 1.2 m (4 ft) wide.

The whale shark uses its gill rakers to filter plankton and small fish from the water as it swims. As water enters the shark’s mouth, it passes over the gill rakers, which are long and slender structures that protrude from the gill arches.

The gill rakers act like a sieve, trapping plankton and other small fish as the water passes through them, allowing water to exit through the gill slits.

The whale shark’s gill rakers are highly efficient at filtering large volumes of water. It has been estimated that a whale shark can filter up to 5,678 litres (1,500 gallons) of water per hour.

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

Greg Skomal / NOAA Fisheries Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world after the whale shark. They can grow up to 10 m (33 ft) in length and weigh up to 4,500 kg (10,000 lbs). Like whale sharks, they feed on plankton and small fish.

They feed by opening their mouths and swimming slowly back and forth, filtering water through their gill rakers to capture plankton. Their mouth can measure up to 1 m (3 ft) wide.

Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios)

opencage, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The megamouth shark is a rare and elusive deep-sea shark that was first discovered in 1976 off the coast of Hawaii. Along with the whale and basking sharks, they are the only extant species of filter-feeding sharks.

The megamouth shark is named after its enormous mouth, which can open up to 1.2 m (4 ft) wide. Megamouth sharks are known to grow at least 5.2 m (17 ft) in length and weigh up to 1,225 kg (2,700 lbs).

Despite being one of the largest sharks in the world, very little is known about the biology and behaviour of megamouth sharks. They are rarely seen and have only been observed a few dozen times since their discovery.