One of the most wonderful things about our planet is the diversity of life that lives here. Scientists estimate that there are about 8.7 million different species on Earth. And almost without exception, every living organism needs to “eat” in order to survive.
While there are different ways organisms consume the energy and nutrients they need (plants, for example, get what they need from the sun and their roots), the vast majority of animals use their mouths. And most of those animals have teeth to help them bite and chew their food so it’s easier for them to swallow. There are a few, however, that don’t have any teeth (and no, we aren’t talking about grandma!)
Many animals without teeth belong to a single order of animals and are called Edentates! These animals have mouths where they ingest food, but they’ve developed a bit differently than animals with teeth. Let’s take a look at some of these toothless creatures and see how they are still able to fill their bellies!
These funny looking creatures are famous for their big, bushy tail, long snout, and even longer tongue. They mostly eat ants – hence the name – by sticking their tongues into ant hills and licking them up. They also enjoy eating termites, but the name “termite-eater” doesn’t roll off the tongue as well as anteater does!
One of nature’s best and most reliable pollinators does not depend on teeth to help them eat. They have a small, sticky tongue that sucks the food into their mouths. They spend their days foraging nearby plants and trees, bringing pollen back to the hive. Once they return home, they transform it into honey and save it to eat during the cold winter months. Now that’s a tasty winter treat!
Most turtles are slow moving and herbivorous, which means they only eat plants. (It also means they don’t win many races.) Some turtles, however, are able to catch and eat insects and smaller animals like fish. The alligator snapping turtle, for example, uses its tongue as a lure to attract fish into its mouth. His name should be the Fishing Turtle!
These creatures are definitely in the running for cutest animal on the planet! A cousin of the anteater, their unique bodies are covered in keratin scales, a material that is similar to your fingernails. They are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are awake at night, and like their cousins, enjoy eating ants and termites.
Is it a beaver? An otter? A duck? No, it’s a platypus! One of the most unique creatures on the planet, it is an egg-laying mammal with venom and no teeth. It’s only found on the western coast of Australia and the island of Tasmania. It uses something called electrolocation to find its prey. That means they have a sensor inside their body that can detect the electric field other animals create. How cool is that?!
These creepy crawlers have big mouths relative to their size, with large pinchers inside that catch and poison their prey. Some spiders eat their prey right after catching them, while others wrap them in cobwebs and store them for later. Not all spiders, however, eat only insects. With close to 50,000 species, there are so many different types of spiders of all shapes and sizes that eat a variety of different things. The Bagheera Kiplingi, for example, gets most of its food needs from plants.
Scorpions are part of the Arachnid family, the same as spiders. They have two big pincher claws in front and a tail with a stinger on the end that curves over and above their heads. They use the pinchers to catch their prey, and they swing their tail down and poison them with their stinger. While the venom in their stinger is used to paralyze their prey, they also use it to protect themselves from larger predators. Most other creatures have learned to stay away from these dangerous creatures; besides, there are far easier and less dangerous prey out there to catch!
These creatures spend their days crawling underground or swimming in water, getting the nutrients they need by ingesting the dirt or water that’s around them. There are many types of worms, and their sizes vary from microscopic – which means you can only see them with a microscope – to over ten feet long!
The tamandua is also a cousin of the anteater. Their favorite foods also include ants and termites, but in captivity they’re known to eat fruits and vegetables. But unlike their cousins, they prefer to live in trees and not on the ground.
Probably the most famous toothless animal, birds swallow their food whole and depend on the gizzard in their stomachs to help them digest their food. The gizzard is an organ that grinds food down with the help of small stones and other particles.
Depending on what type of bird, their diets are pretty varied. Smaller birds tend to eat nuts, seeds, and fruits, while larger birds will catch insects, fish, or other small animals.
If you were a bird, what type of bird would you want to be? And would you take into consideration what they eat when making your decision?
Now here is a super unique creature that you’ve probably never heard of – the Luna Moth. This fascinating bug eats everything it will ever eat when it’s a caterpillar. Once it goes into its cocoon and emerges as a moth, it only lives for about a week, but during that time it doesn’t eat because not only does it not have teeth, it doesn’t have a mouth or digestive system!
Which of these animals is your favorite? Let us know the next time you come in for your dental treatment!
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.