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Animal Teeth Facts: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Teeth and Eating
  • 0:19 Herbivores
  • 1:13 Carnivores
  • 1:41 Omnivores
  • 2:03 Unique Teeth
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

Animals, just like humans, have different kinds of teeth for different purposes. In this lesson, you'll learn how an animal's teeth can teach us more about the animal itself.

Teeth and Eating

As a human, you may use your teeth for more than just eating - maybe for tearing open a package or holding something when your hands are full. Animals, however, usually use their teeth for biting and chewing food. By examining the teeth that an animal has, we can learn a lot about its diet.

Herbivores

Herbivores are animals that only eat plants. They have molars that, like the teeth towards the back of your mouth, are strong, flat, and perfect for grinding up plant matter. Some herbivores, called grazers, eat grass and plants that are close to the ground. Other herbivores, known as browsers, pick up branches and leaves from trees. The ridges that herbivores have on their teeth help them grind up plants so that they can digest them.

Herbivores may also have sharp incisors that help to tear plant matter so they can eat it. You're probably familiar with one herbivore that has huge incisors - elephants! Elephant tusks are actually a type of tooth; however, they mostly use them in fights or to defend against predators.

Cows and sheep are both herbivores that chew on grass. Giraffes are herbivores whose long necks help them reach the leaves of tall trees. These animals also have jaws that move up and down, as well as from side to side, allowing them to chew and grind more easily.

Carnivores

Carnivores are animals that eat meat. They have canines, which are sharp teeth used to tear meat. These animals have fewer molars for chewing. Canine teeth are long and pointed, such as the ones you see when a lion or tiger roars.

Carnivores usually have four pronounced canine teeth with sharp edges. When they open and close their jaws, it is as if a pair of scissors is tearing through their prey. Unlike herbivores, carnivores' jaws only move up and down, helping their teeth to work correctly.

Omnivores

Omnivores eat both plants and animals, so they need a variety of teeth types for eating different foods. To get an idea of the variety, open wide and take a look at your own mouth in a mirror. Humans have canines and incisors to rip and cut food into smaller bits. Flat, ridged molars in the backs of our mouths grind food. Chimpanzees, raccoons, and bears are all omnivores.

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