We all know that mammals need to chew their food completely to help start the digestion process, and that's why they have strong teeth that can tear and grind food. Breaking down the food in the mouth first helps digestion later.
But did you know that some aquatic animals, including some strange fish, also have teeth to help them do the same thing? Fish species like sheepshead, bowfin, and piranha all have strong teeth that help them begin to process the food (prey) they catch.
Some fish grind their prey to break it down, and some rip it into small pieces with sharp teeth to enable easier digestion. In this article, we cover six very strange fish with an overbite or other weird and dangerous teeth arrangements or features. Read on!
What Type of Fish Has Teeth?
Below we tell you about some strange fish species with an overbite and dangerous teeth.
Our first fish comes from the Amazon Basin where they hunt mainly other smaller fish like PIRANHAS. Not joking!
These Dracula-looking fish have incredibly sharp teeth on the top and bottom of their mouths and have two monstrous spear-like teeth on the bottom jaw that are used to stab at prey they attack.
These little 1-1.7 ft. long fish (max 3.8 ft.) look like harmless lake bass or micro-tarpon when their mouths are closed. The two dagger teeth on the bottom fit neatly into a sheath in the top of the jaw so their teeth are well hidden while the mouth is closed.
Those two fang teeth on the bottom of the mouth are as long as an adult's small fingers! In combination with the rest of their toothy mouths, they are well suited to impaling the payaras' favorite live meal - the piranhas swimming around South America.
Obviously, any fish that regularly eats piranhas is a crazy fish to catch on your fishing trip. Many who return from fishing in this region of the world report catching fish full of holes that look like hamburger meat as a result of attacks by these vicious fish.
The good news? Payara fish have not been known to attack humans in the water. But wait, that doesn't mean you can't get a good bite as you reach in to grab one you just hooked and brought to the boat.
Fish aren't so lucky. Like the mouth of largemouth bass, the Payara fish can open its huge jaws quickly to attack whatever smaller fish is close by. Check out this massive fish's teeth in the photo below! The mouth is like an upside-down pit viper snake.
2. Fish in the Esox Genus
We're talking here about the freshwater trio of Pickerel, Pike, and the biggest in the genus, Muskellunge. Members of this Esox genus are deadly predators that attack, kill, and eat almost anything smaller than themselves including fish of course, but they are even capable of consuming small mammals.
A musky's diet includes mostly fish and insects, but they will opportunistically feed on ducklings, frogs, muskrats, and mice too! If you ever fished in an area where these fish are present, in the bait shops you'll see mice, rats, and duck lures!
Big freshwater fish like the pike, pickerels, and muskellunge have long, sharp teeth, which can pierce the skin and sometimes the skull of any fish that is in its jaws and can cause instant death to unwary prey.
There are reports of anglers' hands getting nipped at or downright attacked as people have dangled them in the water. A big musky is at the top of the food chain in the water, so anything that looks like food can be attacked. A big fish that doesn't see that your hand is attached to your big body may mistake it for a small animal. Makes sense, right?
The fish in this genus have long canine-like teeth which line their wide lower jaws. On the top, they have short and razor-sharp teeth. Be careful as you land any of these three, you don't want to reach into the mouth of one of these fish to grab your favorite lure!
The good news? I guess it's good news that 'very few' documented cases of these sometimes massive fish attacking people are on record. That's probably not comforting news for the victims though!
3. Alligator Gar
Alligator gar are strange fish that can grow to enormous sizes and are covered with hard armor-type scales. They are like living dinosaurs when you see them out of the water. They have what looks like hundreds of very sharp conical teeth along their alligator-like jaws.
These big fish can reach over 300 lb. and up to 8 feet long and live in freshwater rivers and streams in the southern USA. We had many of them in Florida that I'd see in crystal clear streams outside of Tampa and they are prevalent in Texas. The average size there was 3-5 feet long and they are incredibly strong fighting fish. They have a huge tail they use along with their weight to fight being pulled from the water.
It is a horrible-looking creature that can give kids nightmares. Oh, the clincher? Their eggs are toxic to humans! Don't eat them, you'll seriously regret it when you get violently ill!
Bluefish are abundant in many fishing waterways, especially along the northeast coast of the USA. Some anglers target them without really knowing the caution that must be observed when landing them and storing them.
Blues have some very sharp and dangerous teeth and unlike some other sharp-toothed species, the bluefish will actually chomp down on your fingers if you get them close enough. They are like fish overbite zombies.
Bluefish are not big, with the average size caught when surf fishing in Florida is about a foot long, although they grow up to and over 20 pounds in the northeast.. They are predators like jack crevalle, they herd baitfish toward the shore as they feed voraciously on them in a blood bath. You can actually see blood in the water, it's freakish to watch a big school of them feeding almost like piranha.
Of course, that means they are easy to catch because you can just toss a Got-Cha plug into the middle of the fray and hook up to 1-2 fish at a time on that small plug with two treble hooks.
Just remember, if you handle them carelessly while fishing, you might feel a little nip and wind up missing a hunk of flesh to their piranha-like chompers.
If you didn't know any better, a bowfin might appear completely harmless. I have to admit, I didn't know any better when I caught my first one at the Hillsborough River on the east side of Tampa one morning while a friend and I enjoyed a peaceful canoe trip amongst alligators everywhere.
I had on a big fat worm and 30 lb. test monofilament. I usually used Gamakatsu hooks at that time, so at least I had a strong hook on! Something grabbed my worm and I was sure it was an alligator. I fought that thing for a good twenty minutes. When I finally got it to the surface I realized it was a bowfin. I had only seen a photo in a fishing guide before, and never in person. And never with the mouth open!
I pulled that 20 lb. beast up on the canoe to remove the hook and was shocked to see teeth everywhere! These fish have serious teeth! They aren't huge, but they have a gigantic mouth and there are teeth all over the front of the mouth. It took me a little while to find pliers. I was expecting to catch bass or something simple.
This bowfin flopped around, jumping a foot with each flop, all over that canoe. My friend was screaming like she was 12, not 25! It became dangerous because its head was near our feet and I had sports sandals on!
Anyway, I eventually got the hook out and launched it by the tail over the side of the canoe. My hands were a mess with slime and the whole boat was covered with it.
This strange fish is really a powerful fighter, and even after you land it, it can still have a lot of energy. Beware the dangerous teeth don’t get lodged in your hand!
Some people call them mudfish or dogfish. Few people target them, but they're all over in slow-moving low oxygenated waters. Bowfins are sometimes mistaken for snakehead fish.
6. Wolf Fish
Trying to catch one of Central and South America's wolf fish, also called the tiger fish, is always fun. These fish get to be about 26 inches long and 8.4 lb. at their biggest.
They look like bowfin except they don't have the dorsal fin along the entire top of the body. Otherwise, the shape is similar.
The teeth on these strange fish are like piranha teeth but bigger and fewer of them seem to be in this fish's mouth. They are definitely intimidating!
These are ambush predators that can rip hunks of flesh out of other fish they prey on, but humans haven't been attacked. Yet.
What Fish Species Don’t Have Teeth?
Seahorses and some wrasses have no teeth or stomach and the food they eat passes through their digestive system so quickly that they need to eat constantly to supply themselves with energy to carry on.
Hagfish and lampreys do not have jaws like most fish, so they do not have teeth inside their jaws. They do have other biting mechanisms though! If you've seen the holes left in fish by lampreys, you know what I'm talking about. Almost like cookie-cutter shark bite marks. They have over 100 sharp tooth-like bony rasping teeth to chew holes into fish.
While sharks and almost all fish have temporary teeth which fall out and are continuously replaced with new ones, seahorses and some wrasses cannot bite because they do not have any teeth or stomachs.
What Are Fish Teeth Made of?
You might think fish teeth are exactly like human teeth and are made of the same thing. However, some differences exist.
The teeth of fish have evolved over millions of years from scales that at first covered the lips of early fish. The teeth are made from 'dentine' and have a coating of enamel, like human teeth do.
Also like human teeth, fish teeth have an empty space in the middle containing blood vessels and nerves.
Some fish have rows of teeth, some have sporadic sharp canine-like teeth growing all over the top of their mouth and jaw, and some have incisor-like teeth they use to nip at things or cut them. Sheepshead fish have these sorts of teeth.
Fish teeth also don't resemble human teeth in the sense that we have teeth that are permanent once we reach adulthood. Fish don't have permanent teeth, they have temporary teeth which fall out and are replaced constantly over their life cycle.
A fish's new teeth grow at the base of teeth that already exist or in the space between teeth that are being replaced.
Is there a fish with human teeth?
Sheepshead fish have some really crazy-looking teeth, often with a pronounced overbite resembling human teeth. Fishing enthusiasts all over the southeast coast have been catching these fish that look like they have human teeth. These are common fish that chew barnacles and crabs with their crushing teeth.
Sheepshead fish are also called 'convict fish' because of the long, dark stripes that run down their bodies. They live as far north as the upper east coast in Nova Scotia, and are more common as you get into the warmer water of Georgia, Florida, and even down to South America.
There are lots of fish swimming in freshwater and saltwater environments that can prey on other fish with their sharp and numerous teeth. Some will even attack people occasionally like sharks or piranhas.
Fish don't have permanent teeth, they have temporary teeth that fall out and are replaced continually throughout their lives. Some fish don't have teeth at all and they need to eat constantly because their digestive system doesn't reclaim enough nutrients.
There are fish with overbites like barracuda and sheepshead. Sheepshead in particular have a severe overbite that almost looks human.
When fishing and catching fish it's important to know which ones might do you damage with their sharp teeth. There are many fish with sharp teeth besides the ones that we mentioned here including king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, wahoo, reef fish, and many more.
Finally, if you ever have the misfortune of catching a large bowfin, do not for any reason pull it up into your small boat!
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