Skulls and dentitions
Mammals are the only vertebrates that chew their food. They possess teeth that are firmly anchored in the jawbones. The lower jaw is, moreover, the only mobile bone in the skull. The teeth are used, above all,to break up food before ingestion and so faciltate digestion. Their form depends on their function. Their number, nature and arrangement in the jaw vary from species to species.
An animal’s dentition is adapted to its diet. It optimizes the animal’s capacity to find and consume available food.
There are three big families of teeth:
- the incisors: sharp, shovel-shaped, used to cut food.
- the molars: wide, used to grind food
- the canines: strong, thin and pointed, located between the incisors and the molars (only present in meat eaters), used to tear through flesh.
This animation enables us to identify the dentition of the large families of mammals, each represented here by an indivual species: ruminants (cow), rodents (porcupine), insectivores (mole), carnivores (dog), and omnivores (bears and humans)
Click on one of the 6 skulls presented at the beginning to enlarge the view.
Click on one of the animal pictures at left to see that animal's skull.
Click on the tooth types at top to see their locations in the chosen animal.