tooth enamel

Researchers Discover That Shark Teeth Are Nature’s Equivalent To Man-Made Power Saws

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Sharks have always been known for their copious amounts of sharp, durable teeth — you probably learned about them in grade school science class, and maybe even collected old shark teeth that had washed up on the beach. But when a group of researchers made an actual power saw out of shark’s teeth, it became clear that we may have been underestimating their strength and sharpness.

The group of researchers came together from the biology departments of the University of Washington and Cornell University and set out to figure out just how deadly a set a shark teeth could be.

As a recent CNet article notes, the “deadliness” of sharks’ teeth hadn’t really been measured yet. Although scientists (and anyone who has seen Jaws) already knows, sharks can be particularly vicious when going after their prey, but they don’t simply bite into an animal and have a simple dinner; they usually shake the prey while biting down, allowing the sharp edges of their teeth to cut through flesh, muscle, and bone.

The recent experiment that attempted to measure the power of sharks’ teeth consisted of super-gluing a variety of teeth from four different shark species onto four saw blades, so as to mimic — in a measurable way — the powerful grip of each species. Using epoxy for glue, the researchers tested out teeth from a tiger shark, a sandbar shark, a silky shark, and a sixgill shark. The “prey” in the experiment was a dead salmon.

The researchers discovered that the teeth of each species differed quite widely, and seemed to be predominantly dependent on the prey that each species tends to eat. The sixgill shark, for example, had the dullest teeth and happens to feed on soft fish; the tiger shark, on the other hand, had the sharpest teeth — which makes sense given that it feeds on hard-shelled animals like turtles and crustaceans.

As researcher Katherine Corn explained to Popular Science following the experiment, the findings are important because “[scientists] may be able to extrapolate factors about feeding ecology from tooth morphology.”

Like it or not, it’s becoming clear that the biology behind sharks’ teeth is actually pretty similar to that of humans’ teeth. The development of different types of teeth in each human mouth is indicative of the diet that early humans had, and although human teeth may not be strong enough to create a power saw, the enamel that naturally grows on each tooth is surprisingly strong.

Luckily, sharks generally don’t prefer humans for their meals. But long story short: never underestimate the power of a healthy set of teeth!