Biology 453

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Piscivores: eat fish; many have sharply pointed, conical teeth to pierce & hold fish before swallowing.
Gar (Actinopterygii)

Gavial (Archosauria)

Alligator (Archosauria)

Porpoise (Eutheria)

Carnivores: eat meat
Barracuda & tiger shark teeth are very similar. Both have flattened triangular shapes, sharp edges that may be serrated to cut flesh.
Tiger Shark (Chondrichthyes)

Barracuda (Actinopterygii)

Hawks & owls have sharply hooked beaks to tear flesh.
Eagle (Aves)

Owl (Aves)

Cats & dogs have a specialized pair of large slicing teeth (PM4/M1) called "carnassials" that form the major slicing pair of teeth in the jaws. Cats have reduced their other molars so they slice & swallow, with minimal chewing of food.
Wolf (Eutheria)

Cougar (Eutheria)

Fox (Eutheria)

Cat (Eutheria)

Herbivores: eat green, leafy plants
Deer, horses, rodents & rabbits have flattened, nearly identical pre-molars & molars. These teeth have exposed enamel & dentine ridges on their surfaces to grind plants.  Rodents have ever-growing incisors for gnawing plants or wood.
Horse (Eutheria)

Nutria (Eutheria)

Deer (Eutheria)

Rabbit (Eutheria)

Iguana (Lepidosauria) have small teeth with tiny serrated edges to cut plants.

Desert Tortoise (Testudines) have keratinized beaks with serrated surfaces.  The keratin grows continuously to replace material worn by the silica in plant leaves.

Frog tadpole (Lissamphibia)

Durophagous - hard, or shelled prey
These species have broadly rounded, short conical teeth to withstand compression.
Skate (Chondrichthyes)

Wolf Eel (Actinopterygii)

Caiman Lizard (Lepidosauria)

Walrus (Eutheria)

Insectivores: eat insects
Those that specialize on eating hard-bodied insects such as beetles & bugs have sharp-edged teeth that are often V or W-shaped (in mammals).
Opossum (Metatheria)

Mole (Eutheria)

Those that specialize on soft-bodied insects such as larvae (grubs) or termites show tooth reduction because they use specialized, long tongues to capture their prey & minimize chewing of food.
Armadillo (Eutheria)

Echidna (Prototheria) - also eats worms

Pangolin (Eutheria) - termite specialist


Planktivore: filter-feeders; eat microscopic or very small prey relative to their jaw/body size.
Shoveler's Jaws - flattened & widened to hold wide, fringed tongue that acts as a sieve.

Baleen Whale: baleen is a keratin outgrowth from the roof of the mouth.

Shoveler's Bill

Baleen Whale


Omnivore: eats a mixture of plant & animal foods
Primates (including humans) and pigs are good examples.   Pre-molars & molars have small cusps for grinding, but are not otherwise highly specialized.  Canines may be short or long & may be used for function unrelated to killing prey.



Bear - lower jaw.  Although bears are members of the order Carnivora, they have a very mixed diet, eating fruit, roots, grubs, fish & meat. They lack the slicing "carnassials" of dogs & cats that are specialized for meat eating.

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