Facts about Teeth

Dental Forensics

Almost all higher eukaryotic organisms possess some form of teeth. In humans, teeth are nearly as unique as fingerprints, hence, dental records can be used in forensics to identify dead bodies. Though, without prior dental records of the deceased person, it is considerably difficult to conclusively ascertain an identity.

Snails and its Radula

In snails, an organ called the radula helps perform the function of teeth. It grinds up food before it is sent to the oesophagus for digestion. Sometimes, it is compared to a tongue as it bears some resemblance. The microscopic teeth-like structures are used to scrape diatoms or algae in herbivorous snails. In predatory snails, the radula is used in tandem with acidic secretions to drill through the shell of other molluscs. Some marine cone snails have modified radula that works like a venom-tipped harpoon.

African Elephant and its Tusk

The tusks of African elephants are essentially modified incisors. These teeth can weigh in over 90 kgs and reach lengths of over 6 feet. Obviously, elephants do not use their incisors to chew food. Instead, they use their massive tusks for social display such as finding mates and fending off competition. They are also used for digging to find water and roots. Also, tusks are used to push trees and debris out of the way. Recent research has shown that excessive hunting and poaching has led to natural selection for shorter tusks. In some cases, tusks do not exist at all.

Blue Whales and Baleen Plates

The animal kingdom classificationplaces the blue whale under the class Mammalia. But unlike most other mammals, blue whales don’t have teeth.  Instead, they use a system of plates called baleen. It essentially looks like a giant bristle plate and is made of keratin – the same material that fingernails are made of. The blue whale is a filter feeder, feeding on tiny organisms such as zooplankton, krill and copepods. The filter-feeding system strains the water and the baleen traps these tiny organisms between their bristle fibres.

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