Frilled Shark Teeth

Frilled shark in museum
© saname777 from Tokyo, Japan / CC BY 2.0

Written by Alan Lemus

Updated: October 6, 2022

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Have you ever seen a shark that actually comes from the age of dinosaurs? Meet the Frilled Shark, also known as the Chlamydoselachus anguineus in scientific terms.  They are one of the oldest sharks to exist and are also called living fossils because of their older heritage. Aside from being old, their appearance is also quite uncanny. It resembles an eel but has the characteristics of a shark. Another unique fact about the Frilled Shark is they have not changed in the million years since they have come into this world. That is why they are referred to as living fossils. If you take a close look at them, they have an eel-like body that is long and cylindrical reaching about 7 feet in length. 

The Frilled Shark is either dark brown or grayish white in color. There are six gill slits on each side of its body, extending to a frill-shaped structure. Hence, they are called Frilled Sharks. It has a short snout but a very large mouth and a large pair of eyes. The mouth holds multiple rows of teeth that are unique and distinguishable.

What Are Frilled Shark Teeth Like?

In comparison with its sleek, long body, it has quite a large mouth. If you take a closer look, you will find them facing backward. They resemble the shape of a trident that you might see in the hands of Zeus in the movie Hercules. But they are much smaller in size in the mouth of the Frilled Shark. 

The multiple rows of these trident-shaped teeth are around 300. They are lined neatly in various columns, stacked with a certain gap around the mouth into 25 rows. On top of that, they have spikes in the lining of their jaws known as dermal denticles which are just as ferocious as their teeth.

On first glance, you might not find them as dangerous as they are rumored to be. But this particular arrangement of their 300 teeth along with spines is one place their prey wouldn’t want to be. They are sort of like a hook that can trap the prey into a firm grasp, making it impossible for the prey to escape. 

The mouth of the Frilled Shark is so large that the prey is taken in along by half of its body. And since the shark has a strong hold on the prey, they rarely have the space to get out and escape. Plus, its striking white color in contrast with the brownish grey of its body makes a luring sight for the prey to enter their own trap. 

Frilled shark teeth on display in museum

Here, a frilled shark presented in a museum setting shows its unique tooth pattern.

©saname777 from Tokyo, Japan / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

What Is Eaten By the Frilled Shark Teeth?

The diet of the Frilled Shark is somewhat unknown. The reason for such a lack of observation in its diet is because they live in deep waters. How deep? Around 390 and 420 feet below the surface level. 

The first of its species was discovered in its natural habitat in 2004. After millions of years of existence, the first time that it was caught was in  2007. So, there is not really much to go on in the research and studies related to this living fossil.

From what we do know about its diet, it consumes certain sharks, squid, and different fish found in the ocean. The squid although found much closer to the surface level were still part of the Frilled Shark’s diet. And it is assumed that the cephalopods like the squid were a major part of its diet. 

Similarly, it is also unclear how the Frilled Shark hunted in the ocean. Scientists believe that it latches itself onto the prey like a snake. With the use of its fins, it propels forward and consumes half the body of the prey in one motion. Due to its sharp, pointy, and intense rows of teeth, it can easily hold firmly over the prey, restricting it from escaping. 

Does a Frilled Shark Use Teeth for Defending Itself?

Again, these facts are only assumed based on the anatomy and physiology of the Frilled Shark and its relatives. But a Frilled Shark may defend itself like other sharks.

Based on its physical attributes, a Frilled Shark has the ability to camouflage itself in the depths of the ocean. It has the color for it and the movement as well. 

As with other sharks that move slowly up to prey and strike them suddenly, the Frilled Shark has a much more ferocious act of hunting, similar to that of a snake. Hence, it is safe to say its teeth are its biggest weapon in both offense and defense. 

It may lunge itself onto the predator if provoked. however, since it has quite a slender and long body it may not be much of a big battle in terms of body slams. Its teeth may play a major part in providing ferocious bites to the predators.

Having said that, it still cannot be said how many predators or what kind of predators it attracts. And since it is not present near the sea surface, it is relatively harder to study its hunting habits or potential threats.

Do Frilled Sharks Bite Humans?

Talking about prey and predator, we cannot forget humans. However, like most sharks, the Frilled Shark is not one to bite a human

It may attack in cases of being provoked. But the fact that it has relatively no human contact, there are no reports of the Frilled Shark attacking a human.

Even in cases where it was found and captured, there was no form of aggression shown by the Frilled Shark. This allows us to believe, yet again, that humans might pose a bigger threat to this population of Frilled Sharks than they to us. However, the estimated population size of the Frilled Shark is unknown. 

In addition, there is absolutely no way of knowing how many Frilled Sharks exist, how long one lives, and how many have existed in the million years they have been living in the oceans. 

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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