Seeing a sheepshead fish is a bizarre sight to see. At first glance, it looks like the fish found a pair of dentures at the bottom of the ocean. However, upon closer inspection, this type of fish grows its own set of human teeth.
While you may feel a bit nervous or even scared when coming across a sheepshead fish, they’re typically not a threat to people.
Let’s dive into this odd species and why their teeth are so eerily similar to humans.
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What Is a Sheepshead Fish?
Sheepshead fish, or Archosargus probatocephalus, are ray-finned fish that swim in waters along the eastern coast of North and South America.
Not to be confused with a similar type of fish on the west coast, the Californa Sheepheads or Semicossyphus pulcher. They both have teeth and have similar names but belong to different families.
This species is also a popular sport fish that many fishermen enjoy catching with some choosing to eat it for dinner later that night. This peculiar fish has distinctive teeth that you may easily mistake for a human’s. But why do they have human-like teeth?
Why Does a Sheepshead Have Human-Like Teeth?
This fascinating fish has nearly human teeth with its front teeth, or incisors, and molars on their upper and lower jaw. They have two sets of molars on their lower jaw and three sets of molars along their upper jaw.
Scientists believe that the sheepshead teeth evolved as an adaptation to their omnivorous diet. Sheepshead eats a variety of foods, including shelled animals.
Like humans, this unique set of teeth helps crush and chew hard objects. In the sheepshead’s case, it helps to crush its favorite prey’s shells, like shellfish and crabs.
Where Do Sheepshead Live?
Sheepshead fish prefer to live in warm, shallow coastal environments.
They often inhabit inlets, jetties, docks, and other artificial structures like bridge pilings. These structures offer shelter near the water’s surface and allow them to forage for crustaceans and marine worms.
You can find them in salty estuaries along the northeastern Atlantic coast and all over the east coast as far south as South America. Sheepshead Bay near New York city is named after the fish.
Are Sheepshead Fish Dangerous for People?
Some may take one look at the sheepshead fish and assume it’s dangerous to people. In reality, these marine creatures pose little threat to humans. The primary factor to consider is the sharp dorsal fin spines.
Sheepshead fish use their dorsal and anal fin spines to ward off predators by making them appear larger than they are. Additionally, their sharp spines can pose some severe damage if something or someone harasses them.
Generally speaking, swimming away quickly or keeping a respectable distance should prevent any negative interaction with this fish species. Observing sheepshead – above and underwater – is safe if you take proper precautions and avoid provoking them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding fish with human teeth, the sheepshead.
Will a Sheepshead Fish Bite You?
Although they can bite when threatened or mishandled, it is doubtful that they would bother a person unless provoked in some way. In cases where a sheepshead bites someone, it’s typically because they were attempting to open the fish’s mouth.
What is a Fish With Big Teeth?
The biggest teeth in history come from the extinct megalodon shark, the largest being 60 feet long. Now the fish with the largest teeth is a great white shark. When comparing teeth size to head size, the Sloan’s Viperfish has the largest teeth.
Are Sheepshead Fish Good Eating?
Many fishermen agree that sheepshead fish is delicious. They have moist, white flesh with a sweet flavor similar to that of shellfish. You can bake, grill, or deep-fry sheepshead fish if you want to try something new in your diet.