Q: I know that sharks lose and replace their teeth throughout their lives, but what about other fish, like smoker kings, snappers, or others? Do they regrow teeth when they lose them?
- Buford "Bo" Arbuckle III, Charleston, South Carolina
A: Thanks for the great question, Bo. Bony fishes also undergo tooth replacement, although not in the "conveyor-belt" manner observed in cartilaginous fishes, such as sharks. The teeth of sharks and their close relatives are actually modified scales attached to tissue that folds around into their mouths and wraps around their jaws. In these fishes, new rows and columns of teeth constantly develop and move forward and up to replace old or damaged teeth. In contrast, the predominant jaw teeth in bony fishes are either attached to the surface of bones or anchored in bony sockets. Larger jaw teeth often alternate with slightly smaller teeth in a single row; these actually represent two sets of teeth in different stages of development. As fish damage or lose larger, mature teeth, the alternating, smaller teeth mature and eventually take their place. New teeth then develop in the areas where the teeth were lost, a process that may continue indefinitely throughout a fish's life.
- Ray Waldner