Stingrays are a type of sea rays that are closely related to sharks. Despite their fierce reputation, they are actually known for being quite shy and gentle.
That said, they do have barbs that they use as a defensive mechanism to defend themselves against sharks and other predators.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the stingray’s mouth, and answer do stingrays have teeth?
Yes, stingrays do have a set of teeth that enable them to crush mollusks such as crabs, clams, oysters, and muscles.
Do Stingrays Really Have Teeth?
Although it may seem strange for stingrays to have teeth, they do actually have a set of gnashers that they use for chewing up food.
Stingray teeth are not the same as the teeth you would find in say a shark’s mouth, certainly not long, sharp, and capable of tearing you to shreds.
The teeth of a stingray are flattened and are made from modified placoid scales, also known as dermal denticles which are the same type of scales found on a shark’s body.
Can A Stingray Bite You?
It’s incredibly rare to be bitten by a stingray, but you would much rather receive a bite from a stingray than be stuck by their barb.
To be bitten by a stingray you would have to have your hands or fingers near the ray’s mouth, which would usually only happen with a ray in captivity.
These animals will often flee in the wild if they encounter humans. But as they bury themselves in the sand, swimmers can sometimes step on them which may prompt a sting.
They are able to bite you, and given that their teeth are used to crack open crabs, clams, and other mollusks, it likely do some damage to a finger.
Stingrays have developed incredibly loose jaws to help them chew their prey. Not only can they chew up and down, but they can also chew side to side and back and forth.
This is thanks to the very loose connections attaching the jaws to one another, and to the rest of the stingray.
Stingrays exhibit a type of chewing known as ‘asymmetric’ chewing. This basically means that stingrays are able to chew in all directions, making their jaws incredibly flexible.
They roll their jaws around and extend them far outwards when chewing, kind of like how a cow would chew whilst chomping in a field.
What Kind Of Teeth Do Stingrays Have?
Although stingrays’ teeth are flat and look a little different, they are made from the same materials as human teeth.
Just like our teeth, stingrays have a pulpy center that is filled with blood vessels and nerves. Around that is a layer of dentin, which is the primary material that all teeth are made of.
Hard enamel coats the dentin, and when the tooth is ready it will shed out of the stingray’s mouth.
A new tooth fills in as a replacement, and the stingray keeps a full mouth of pulp-dentin-enamel teeth for all of its life.
Why Are Stingray Teeth Flat?
Stingrays eat a varied diet of crustaceans, small fish, mollusks, and invertebrates. They need to have flat teeth in order to crunch their hard-shelled prey.
Female stingrays have flat teeth year-round, whereas the male’s teeth change between flat and sharp.
In breeding season, male stingrays develop sharp, hardened teeth in order to hold female stingrays whilst mating.
During the non-breeding season, their teeth return to flat so that they can crush their prey.
Some types of rays do not have teeth at all, such as the Manta Ray. These species of ray are filter feeders and eat mostly plankton.
They swim with their mouths open drawing in zooplankton and krill and then sift them out through tiny rakes that line their mouths called gill plates.
So, do stingrays have teeth? Yes, they certainly do. Stingray teeth are different from ours in that they are flat and not needed to tear meat or flesh.
Their diet consists of mainly mollusks and crustaceans so flat teeth work best for them.
Stingrays have very unique jaws that are loose and allow them to chew in every direction, they eat similar to how a cow grazes but on the seafloor.
It may come as a surprise to many that these mostly cartilage animals have a set of teeth, but because of their food source, teeth are required.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something new today about why stingrays have teeth and how they are used.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about rays and other marine life.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.