When you think of the scariest horror film animals ever — whether it’s that rabid dog from “Cujo,” the man-eating great white from “Jaws,” or the 30-foot-long crocodile in “Lake Placid” — what is it that really haunts you? The teeth! Those deadly white daggers stand out on movie posters, taunting you to watch victims get devoured … if you dare.
Super-sharp predatory fangs sink into our primal fear, making us draw in our knees and reach for a friend’s hand (or freak out on Twitter, as many people did about Sonic the Hedgehog’s creepy, human-like teeth). Ready to get spooked — or at least enjoy a few campy shivers? Here are six of the most fangtastic chompers in the animal kingdom.
Marine snails’ gnashers are the strongest natural substance on the planet.
Cue the ominous shark music, but slowly ...Snails have up to 15,000 teeny, razor-sharp teeth! They line up in hooked rows along a tongue-like structure called a radula. As the front ones wear out, they are easily replaced by the next row. Dentists shake with fear!
Snorkelers beware: The geographic cone snail of the Indo-Pacific coral reefs has a harpoon-like tooth that delivers enough venom to kill a human (though they prefer to prey on fish). Proteins in the venom may be used in the future as pain-killers — they are 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
Move over, Spider-Man. Here comes Iron Snail! Marine snails, aka “limpets,” have teeth on their tongues that are five times stronger than spider silk, making their choppers the strongest natural substance on Earth. Engineers are examining the structure of snail teeth to help them build faster planes and race cars.
Got a fear of mice? Then stop reading now, because capybaras are the largest rodents on the planet, and they have super-sharp front teeth that never stop growing! Found in South America (and now on the loose in Florida), capybaras can be 4.6-feet long and weigh more than a Great Dane.
They use their long, snippy incisors to gnaw on grass and plants — and to devour a protein-rich breakfast of their own poo. 💩 Now that sounds like the makings of a cult horror B-movie!
When a hippo “yawns,” you better run the other way.
Sorry, Walt Disney, the planet’s deadliest land mammal doesn’t dance in a tutu. Instead, the hippopotamus sports canines up to 20 inches long and can snap a canoe in half lickety-split. Hippos are responsible for killing about 500 people in Africa each year.
It’s not naptime when hippos look like they’re yawning by opening their mouths 150 degrees. They’re actually threatening you by flashing their fangs. Mostly they use these monstrosities in fatal combat with other hippos, though they’re also deadly to tourists who get too close.
Hippo teeth are in short supply because sadly, they are prized by poachers. Their ivory-like surface is carved into sculptures and figurines — and once upon a time, into dentures for President George Washington, wired together with gold springs and brass screws. Now that’s scary.
Have kiddos who fight toothbrushing like the devil? Try having them scrub along to a video of a hippo getting his canines cleaned with a brush the size of a child’s arm. (And check out our story on how to raise floss fanatics.)
Grab your blankie for this one! In the coldest, darkest depths of the Pacific Ocean lurks the kraken, a real-life colossal squid — and one of the only creatures capable of killing it with its dagger-like pearly whites: the sperm whale.
The world’s largest living animal with teeth, the sperm whale can grow to be 62 feet long with an enormous square head that holds up to 50 pointy, conical choppers (and a white fluid that gave the whale its name). This giant cetacean gobbles up kraken like cupcakes.
Crocodiles can go through 8,000 teeth in a lifetime.
What’s more chill-inducing: The fact that crocodiles have the strongest bite in the animal kingdom — rivaling that of a Tyrannosaurus rex? Or that a croc’s brain is the size of a walnut? Either way, don’t go all Dundee and try to wrestle one. Crocodiles are super smart about ambushing prey and responsible for an estimated 1,000 human deaths per year, up to 100 times more than sharks.
Crocs belong in Jurassic Park, as they’ve been around some 230 million years, outlasting dinosaurs and surviving ice ages. Though they’re now relentless carnivores, the teeth of a few ancient species show they flirted with vegetarianism.
Crocs seem to boast about their bite, with wicked white stabbers in their lower jaw sticking out over their upper lip, even when their mouth is closed. A croc’s 64 to 68 teeth are for grabbing and tearing apart flesh, not chewing; these ravenous reptiles swallow their prey whole.
Crocodiles don’t shed tears when they lose teeth, as they can go through 8,000 chompers in a lifetime, growing new ones as soon as they’re needed. Some researchers are looking into how to replicate that process for humans, giving a whole new meaning to a “crocodile smile.”
You knew it would be on the list. The great white shark, also called the “white death,” has a reputation for killer teeth. These top predators’ mouths hold 300 biters in up to seven terrifyingly tidy rows. The first two sets are used to tear into juicy sea lions and seals (notice “humans” are not a preferred menu item).
The subsequent teeth work on a kind of conveyor belt system to replace those that are lost. Some sharks run through 30,000 teeth in their lifetime. (A tooth fairy’s greatest dream or worst nightmare?)
Sure, their name is cute, but with cookie-cutter sharks, that’s where the snugglefest ends. Cookiecutter sharks are parasitic fish that feed off of other creatures by using their eerie, translucent, triangular teeth to suction onto larger prey. Then they scoop out a chunk of flesh, leaving their namesake cookie-cutter shaped wound behind.
Try this on for spine-chilling size. The largest shark tooth ever found was 6.9 inches long (almost triple the size of great white sharks’ teeth) and belonged to a fossilized megalodon shark. These enormous prehistoric beasts make Jaws look more like Nemo. Their bite diameter was 9.8-feet, more than enough to swallow a Smart car, and they may have weighed more than 143,000 pounds (not a typo).
Even their name means “giant tooth” in Greek. Good thing for ocean lovers they went extinct 2.6 million years ago, though you can still come across their giant gnashers on Florida and Carolina beaches, as one very excited seven-year-old did in 2017.
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