What Sharks Have No Teeth?

February 15, 2024

Sharks are at the top of the aquatic food chain, and their jaw powers and sharp teeth help them eat their way through their prey. But there are some sharks that don’t have any teeth at all, and these toothless shark species feed on a different type of food than the large fish they usually snatch up.

These filter feeders, including basking sharks and whale sharks, have vestigial teeth and twenty gill-like plates that act like strainers to sieve tiny plankton out of ocean water. These filter-feeders don’t have to bite down on their meals, and they can consume up to 3.5 percent of their body weight in one meal!

The sharks that have no teeth are bottom-dwellers that rely on their gills to extract oxygen. They are able to hold their breath for longer periods, and they can even sit still while sucking in water through their gills. They have a special respiratory lining that can take in oxygen directly from the water, and they use their gills to digest their soft-bodied food, which includes crustaceans, mollusks, and worms.

Sharks can survive without teeth for a few months, but any prolonged time of toothlessness is likely to lead to starvation, especially if the shark is not able to eat hard-bodied, easily chewed or swallowed foods. Fortunately, captive toothless sharks can be saved from death by hand-feeding them softened seafood and by isolating them from aggressive tankmates and providing them with regular veterinary care.

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