All dolphins have teeth, although not all dolphin species use their dolphin teeth for hunting or eating. The number of teeth in a dolphin’s mouth varies widely between species, yet they only need one set to last a lifetime.
While the teeth of each dolphin species are different, there are some universal rules that all of them obey. We’ll find out how many teeth a typical dolphin has and what sets them apart in this info-filled article.
Do All Dolphins Have Teeth?
No dolphin is toothless. Most have dozens, if not hundreds, of teeth, but Risso’s dolphin is one of the few that has less than twenty.
Both the Risso’s dolphin and the Amazon River dolphin have slightly more complicated teeth than the common whale or dolphin.
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What Type of Teeth Do Dolphins Have?
Dolphins are toothed cetaceans or odontocetes. They are similar to other cetaceans including sperm whales, beaked whales, and porpoises in this regard.
The orca whale (Orcinus orca), the largest member of the dolphin family, is a marine mammal. Despite its size, the orca, often known as a killer whale, has the same dental structure as the much smaller bottlenose dolphin.
The majority of dolphin species are homodonts, which means they have only one kind of tooth. Humans, in contrast, have four different tooth types: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.
The only tooth type seen in dolphins is tiny (up to 1/2 inch long) and conical. These teeth can be soft or keen depending on the kind of dolphin and what they prefer to consume.
How Many Does the Dolphin Teeth Number?
Millions of years ago, dolphins evolved from species that lived on land. As marine life became more ideal for them, their tooth count increased dramatically relative to that of their terrestrial ancestors.
Dolphins are classified as polyodonts due to the fact that they have more than 44 teeth in each quadrant of their mouths (upper, lower, left, and right).
Dolphins are appropriately named because they have multiple teeth (polyodonty). Let’s examine the molars of some of the most prevalent dolphin species:
- Short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis): 160-228
- Long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis): 188-268
- Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus): 72-116
- Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris): 180-260
- Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens): 92-144
Read also: What is a Group of Dolphins Called?
What are the 2 Types of Dolphins with Specialised Dolphin Teeth?
- Risso’s Dolphin:
The Grampus griseus, or Risso’s dolphin, can be found in both tropical and temperate seas. Their lack of upper teeth and a small number of bottom teeth (4-14) make theirs the most unusual dentition.
The few teeth they do have are much more pointed than those of a regular dolphin, and they are all clustered at the front of the mouth.
Due to their diet consisting nearly entirely of squid, Risso’s dolphins have developed unique teeth.
- Amazon River Dolphin:
In the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, you can find the freshwater dolphins known as Inia geoffrensis. Their diet includes fish, turtles, and crabs, and they are commonly known for their bright pink colour.
Their back molars are flatter and more molar-like because they eat tougher things like crabs and turtles. Technically speaking, these dolphins are heterodonts, which means they have more than one type of tooth.
Does the Dolphin Teeth Determine the Diet of the Dolphin?
The majority of a dolphin’s diet consists of fish, krill, plankton, and cephalopods (squid). However, various dolphin species may prefer one over the other, and here is where variations in dolphin teetth size and shape become apparent.
The bottlenose dolphin is one such species; it has extremely typical, conical, blunt teeth and feeds primarily on fish, squid, and krill.
In contrast, the orca whale’s teeth are adapted for shredding flesh, therefore it eats primarily huge food like seals. Other dolphin species have even more complex teeth to accommodate their varied diets.
Dolphins use their white dolphin teeth for more than just catching fish; they can also be used as a symbol of dominance. Dolphins are highly gregarious animals that congregate in groups of dozens.
Every pod has its own distinct social order, from the least powerful members (typically the youngest ones) to the most powerful leaders.
Now that you know what the dolphin teeth are all about do well to share this info with your friends as well!