Not all teeth are the same. Here are 3 ways animals’ teeth evolved to help them survive

Your teeth wouldn’t do much against a woolly mammoth.

But the teeth of a saber-toothed cat – those were perfectly evolved to bring down such a giant prey.

The teeth of all animals have evolved to help them survive. The teeth can be used to intimidate, hunt and bite.

saber tooth tigers

A saber-toothed tiger skeleton (about 5 million years old) is on display in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

An animal with such impressive teeth that it is named after it, the saber-toothed tiger was one of many saber-toothed cats that roamed the land before and during the Ice Age.

“Sabre” is another word for a sword, and the teeth of these cats looked like daggers. They were so big that they were sticking out of the sides of their mouths.

According to Indiana University researchers, saber-toothed tigers likely used their giant teeth to stab at the soft neck and underbelly of their prey. Cats are believed to have mostly hunted large, slow-moving animals, such as mammoths.


Baleen is visible as a North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod Bay off Plymouth, Mass., March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Some species of whales, including the orca, have teeth that they can use to grab hold of objects.

According to Britannica, these whales will use their teeth to grab or shake other whales in fights, but they won’t use them for chewing. Killer whales swallow their food – sometimes as big as a seal or sea lion – whole.

Other whale species have evolved to have no teeth at all, and instead have something called baleen where the teeth would be.

Made of the same material as our fingernails and hair, baleen separates tasty prey like plankton and small fish from seawater, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation. This allows baleen whales, like the blue whale, to eat by swimming into their prey and simply opening their mouths.


Sweetwater Jaycees member Blake Stephens holds a rattlesnake at the Texas Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Austin, Texas. The group was at the Capitol to promote their annual Rattlesnake Gathering. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Rattlesnakes, common in the southwestern United States, use their poisonous fangs to grab food.

According to Live Science, rattlesnakes wait quietly until a small rodent or lizard arrives. Then they strike – moving at lightning-fast speeds – biting and paralyzing their prey with venom.

Rattlesnakes do not use their fangs to chew. Instead, they swallow their prey whole.

Rattlesnakes are named for the “rattle” at the end of their tail, which hums when the snake wants to warn a predator. Sound also helps people know where they are and where not to step!

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