The moment a sheepshead fish open its mouth, it makes a lasting impression. That’s because their teeth look remarkably like human ones! The unusual-looking fish has the Internet freaking out after the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently posted a photo of one fish’s toothy smile.
Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) has a hard mouth, with several rows of stubby teeth – the frontal ones resembling human teeth. They are remarkably humanlike, with the same shape and color. But that’s where the similarities end.
Granted, their teeth are unsettling sight, but the teeth have a distinctive purpose.
Sheepshead have extremely powerful jaws and flattened teeth so that they can crush through their prey, which consists of hard-shelled sea life like oysters, clams, crabs and barnacles.
The front teeth grab hold of of their prey and their multiple rows of molars help grind their prey into smaller pieces that they can chew and eat.
Native to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States, the adults weight around 20 pounds and they are commonly fished because they are a popular fish to eat. Fishermen say the fish have a knack for stealing bait (no doubt aided by their unusual mouths). Some have reported that the fish can actually snap metal fishhooks in half!
This fish is found from Cape Cod, Massachusetts south through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. At one time they ranged as far north as New York City. There is, in fact, Sheepshead Bay of New York City that was named after the sheepshead fish.
Sheepshead are not the only fish with humanlike teeth. The Paku, native to South American rivers, also has a row of pearly whites that could easily be mistaken as human.
Sheepshead likely got their name because their teeth are very similar to that of a sheep, which is slightly ironic now that so many people liken them to human ones. The sheepshead is certainly a distinctive fish and in no small part because of their unique teeth!