Fascinating Animal Teeth

Quick Links: Cats, Dogs, Beavers, Mosquitos, Giraffes, Frogs, Winter Holiday Animals, Reindeer, Narwhal, Polar Bears, Horses and Donkeys, Cardinals, Robins


Many animals are adorable, some are terrifying, and several have incredible teeth.

We have investigated and put together another fun list of some amazing animal teeth. We also have a bonus section all about some favorite wintery, Christmasy animals!



Cats



Your cute, little kitty may seem quite adorable, until a yawn displays all those sharp teeth. Then, it is obvious that your sweet pet is closely related to cheetahs, tigers, and lions. These feline predators don’t chew their food because their molars aren’t flat and able to grind it up. Instead, their teeth are meant for piercing, tearing, and working almost like scissors to rip off chunks of food, which they swallow whole. Next time your family pet bites, think of it as a sign of love that she chooses not to take any flesh!



Dogs



If you’ve ever had a puppy, you know that they chew on just about everything. That is because they go through teething just like humans! However, they do it a bit differently. A dog's baby teeth start showing when they are about 3 weeks old, and all of them erupt in around 3 weeks. Then, just a few weeks later, near their 12th week, their baby teeth start to fall out so the adult teeth can grow in. This process only takes a few months and all of a dog’s permanent teeth usually erupt by the time they are 6 months old.


Aren’t you glad humans don’t have to go through such an accelerated process? Just imagine the drooling and fussiness that would create!


Dogs’ teeth are different than ours in another way. Their mouths have a very high pH (low acidity) which helps keep their enamel strong, so they rarely get cavities. However, like us, they are susceptible to gum disease. It is actually more common in dogs than in humans.



Beavers



It is a well-known fact that beavers chew through wood at an incredible rate. Did you ever wonder how they can do this without wearing down or breaking teeth? Their incisors never stop growing, so they actually have to chew on hard substances! Chewing through wood wears down their front teeth, keeping them at a manageable length.


They also have another advantage. Do you see in the picture that the beaver’s teeth are a deep, rusty-orange color? This is because their tooth enamel (the protective outer layer of a tooth) is rich in iron. The iron also makes their teeth strong, so they don’t break as easily as other animals.



Mosquitos



Mosquitos don’t have teeth, right? They have a needle-like tube that pierces skin. Actually, both are kind of true. Gabriella Quiros explains, “When a mosquito pierces the skin, a flexible lip-like sheath called the labium scrolls up and stays outside as she pushes in six needle-like parts that scientists refer to as stylets.


Two of these needles, called maxillae, have tiny teeth. The mosquito uses them to saw through the skin. They’re so sharp you can barely feel the mosquito biting you. ‘They’re like drill bits,’ said Leal. Another set of needles, the mandibles, hold tissues apart while the mosquito works.”


Sooo, yeah. That mosquito is using needle-like tubes with tiny teeth to get to your blood. If you have a strong stomach, the full article is very interesting and has a few close-up videos of the process.



Giraffes



Did you know that we have something in common with Giraffes? They have 32 teeth just like humans, but theirs are set up quite a bit differently. In the front of their mouth, they have incisors on the bottom and just a hard pad on the upper jaw. Along with their long tongue, the front teeth and hard pad are used to strip leaves off trees. Then there is a long strip along their jaw with no teeth. This empty space is followed by lots of molars on the top and bottom, which are used to chew and grind the leaves. This unique tooth arrangement and the bony protrusion on top of their head give giraffes quite a distinctive looking skull!



Frogs



Cute little frogs… We can all picture a frog catching prey with its tongue, but did you know that most frogs have teeth? That seems a bit strange for such a squishy little creature. They don’t use their teeth to chew, since they only have teeth on the upper jaw. Instead, their teeth hold the prey in place until the frog can swallow it whole. Yuck!


Some species even have something resembling fangs! 9 new species with this strange feature were recently found, and you can read all about these fascinating creatures in this National Geographic article.



Winter Holiday Animals



Many animals are associated with various Christmas traditions and others have been seen on holiday decorations for centuries, but they all are nostalgic favorites for many. Quite a few, such as foxes, rabbits, penguins, owls, and polar bears seem to be associated with the holidays simply because they live in snowy climates, have coats that change in the winter, or are just adorable. Others, including reindeer and donkeys, are associated with specific stories and songs. Here are a few favorite holiday creatures.



Reindeer



Yes, reindeer are real! We have a species of reindeer in North America, but they are usually called Caribou. Reindeer are unique in that they are one of the few deer species that both males and females grow antlers. Males shed their antlers in late fall. Females are pregnant throughout the long, snowy winter, so they retain their antlers until spring so they can defend food sources and get enough food throughout their pregnancy. Who knows? If reindeer are real maybe Santa is, too!



Narwhal



A narwhal is seen in the beloved holiday movie, Elf. Their beautiful horn is actually a spiral tusk that can grow to 10 feet long. Making it even more strange, the tusk is an enlarged canine tooth with over 10 million nerve endings. All these nerve endings allow it to function as a sense organ, but scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what it is used to sense.



Polar Bears



Coca-cola has been using a polar bear in ads for nearly a century. Other than that, polar bears have not been part of Holiday stories or traditions until recently.


Polar bears’ white coats make them stand out from other bear species, and they do have many other differences. Since polar bears spend so much time in the water (they can swim for hours without resting) they are the only bear species classified as marine animals. All this time in the water means their diets are mostly sea creatures, making them almost exclusively meat-eaters. Other bears are omnivores, with a diet high in grasses, roots, and berries in addition to meat sources. A polar bear’s canine teeth are as long as you would expect, but their molars (called cheek teeth in a bear) are much smaller than the other bear species because of their different diet.



Horses and Donkeys



“Dashing through the snow

In a one-horse open sleigh

O’er the fields we go

Laughing all the way…”


“Jingle Bells” is the epitome of holiday cheer and Christmas cards and decorations highlight this joyful theme. Horses are central to the beautiful imagery and they are found in many other holiday stories and songs.


Although a horse’s diet consists of plants, they can have receding gums – just like humans. The phrase “long in the tooth” started as a description of horses because of this fact. As they age, the gums recede, causing their teeth to appear longer. For centuries, this was a way to estimate a horse’s age. Just don’t call Grandpa and Grandma long in the tooth, unless they give you socks and underwear 10 years in a row!



Donkeys are part of the horse family. It is believed that a donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem while she was pregnant with Jesus and one is included in many nativity scenes and Christmas stories.


Interestingly, horses, asses (donkeys are a domesticated species of the ass family), and zebras are the only three remaining species in the horse family and each can be bred with the others. They produce Mules (horse/donkey hybrid) and Zebroids (zebra and horse or donkey hybrid). Depending on which species was the father and which was the mother they can have all kinds of interesting names. Zorse, zony, zenky, zedonk, and hebra are just a few.



Cardinals



Not many things embody winter cheer more than a bright red cardinal in the snow. They get their brilliant coloring from pigments in the food they eat. When courting, a male will put a seed directly in the female’s mouth, making it look like they are kissing. Many species stay with one mate, and the males bring food to the female while she incubates the eggs.


Although we live in a desert climate, cardinals do live in Southeastern Arizona and may very rarely be seen in the Phoenix area. They are usually the first to feed from a bird feeder in the morning and the last in the evening. So, if you keep a feeder of birdseed in your yard, keep an eye out and you may get lucky enough to see one of these beautiful birds.


On a different note, there is an interesting story behind the naming of the Arizona Cardinals Football team. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Cardinals are the oldest team in the NFL and started out as the Morgan Athletic Club in Chicago. In 1901, the founder received a shipment of faded cardinal red jerseys from the University of Chicago Maroons football team. They became known as the Racine Cardinals, which later simply became the Cardinals.



Robins



Mailmen in Victorian times were nicknamed robins because they wore bright red coats. Animals and plants were a common decoration during this era, so decorations often used the image of a robin carrying Christmas cards or mail to a loved one. These beautiful, cheery birds are still used to portray holiday greetings and goodwill.


We hope you enjoyed this information and are having a wonderful holiday season!


At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.


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