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All About Shark Teeth

Discovering a fossilized shark's tooth on the beach is exciting. It's even more interesting to learn a little about the story behind the tooth. An individual can put together a rough profile of a shark by examining a fossilized tooth. Consider some information about shark teeth and what to look for when evaluating a fossilized tooth.

Shark Teeth Anatomy and Function

Different species of shark have different types of teeth. A person can determine what a shark eats by looking at the shape and size of its teeth. For example, before eating a crustacean or a mollusk, a nurse shark uses its short, round teeth to crush the creature's shell. Alternatively, a shark that chases and grasps its prey has long, pointed teeth. Mako sharks have pointed teeth that help them grasp and eat a variety of small fish. Some sharks have serrated, triangular-shaped teeth. These sharks are able to cut through the thick flesh and bones of their prey. A great white is one example of a shark with serrated teeth. They hunt large mammals such as dolphins and seals.

Fossil Shark Teeth

Shark teeth are made of a solid substance called dentin. This material is slow to decompose, which is part of the reason why fossil shark teeth are so plentiful. When a shark loses a tooth, it ends up on the bottom of the ocean, where it's covered with protective layers of sediment. It takes thousands of years for a shark tooth to turn into a fossil. As fossilization takes place, water and minerals work their way into the shark's tooth. One fossil tooth may be red while another is gray, blue, green, or even orange. The color of a shark's tooth can be an indication of the type of minerals inside it.

Identifying Shark Teeth

The shape and size of a fossilized tooth can help a person to identify the type of shark it belonged to. The area where it's discovered is also a helpful detail in identifying a fossilized shark tooth. Some types of sharks are known to live around particular coastlines. Keep in mind that identifying a fossilized shark's tooth is a tricky process. For instance, a shark's teeth may change shape if the shark starts eating different types of prey. Plus, some diseases can affect the shape and size of a shark's teeth.

Other Interesting Facts

Most sharks lose tens of thousands of teeth during their lifetime. They have rows of teeth waiting to replace the ones that are lost every few weeks. Considering this, it comes as no surprise that some sharks can lose around 50,000 teeth in a lifetime!

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