11 Examples of Animals with No Teeth (With Pictures)

Not all animals need to chew their food, so it’s only natural that there are animals with no teeth, as many species got rid of them through evolution.

We’re currently aware of at least 11 groups or species of animals with no teeth:

  • Anteaters
  • Insects
  • Turtles
  • Birds
  • Octopuses
  • Baleen Whales
  • Pangolins
  • Platypuses
  • Toads
  • Echidnas
  • Worms

*Note: Animals are ranked in no particular order.

1. Anteaters

Scientific name (suborder): Vermilingua

Anteaters don’t have any teeth because they don’t need them. These mammals feed by sticking their elongated snout in a termite mound or an ant tunnel system below the ground.

Then, they push their tongue down the same hole. Their tongues are incredibly long, usually much longer than their own heads. It’s also sticky, so ants and termites just stick to the tongue.

Some anteaters can eat over 30 000 ants and termites a day by using this method of feeding. They don’t need teeth because ants, obviously, don’t need chewing since they’re so tiny.


2. Insects

Scientific name (class): Insecta

Insects are animals with no teeth similar to any other animal teeth. This is because most insects don’t need to chew at all. Chewing insects – insects that actually need to chew their food – have a pair of mandibles that create a cutting and crushing motion.

Most insects, however, don’t feed by chewing, so they don’t have these mandibles. Most of them feed by siphoning, piercing and sucking, as well as sponging.


3. Turtles

Scientific name (order): Testudines

Even though they’re omnivores and they’ll eat meat, turtles don’t have teeth. Instead, they have incredibly powerful beaks – and they’re not the only animal on this list to function that way.

They use this beak to tear their food into pieces before swallowing it. These beaks are made of keratin sheaths – the same compounds our hair and nails are made of – these sheaths are sharp and they easily cut food.


4. Birds

Scientific name (class): Aves

This doesn’t come as a surprise, but birds don’t have teeth. Instead, just like turtles, they have beaks. Most birds don’t need teeth because they feed on seeds and small insects, neither of which require chewing.

Birds that feed on larger prey or larger nuts usually have much stronger beaks – some of them are even capable of breaking Brazilian nuts open without much effort.

Carnivorous birds like falcons and owls have beaks powerful enough to rip meat into pieces small enough to be swallowed. They kill, however, with their claws, not their beaks.


5. Octopuses

Scientific name (order): Octopoda

Another animal that uses a beak instead of using teeth, octopuses are some of the oddest animals in the world. Some of them are venomous and they’ll use the venom to paralyze the prey.

If the prey is a smaller animal, it will just coil its tentacles around it and force it into its mouth. There, they have a single beak that’s going to rip the prey to shreds before swallowing.

Interestingly, they do have an organ called the radula – this is a sort of spiked tongue, with the spikes acting like teeth, helping break down the food.


6. Baleen Whales

Scientific name (parvorder): Mysticeti

This order of whales is characterized mainly by their use of baleen plates, also known as whalebone. These plates are used to break down food – usually planktonic creatures.

Whalebones are extremely dense, allowing them to act as a sort of filter. They’ll just charge at a group of plankton and open their mouth, filtering the food through and leaving everything larger than a plankton out.

This system of filtration is incredibly advanced, given that it isn’t a man made filtration system. Baleen plates decrease in size as they move further inside the jaw, with the largest ones being in the front.


7. Pangolins

Scientific name (order): Pholidota

Just like anteaters, pangolins feed mainly on ants and termites, so teeth are completely useless to them. This evolutionary trick saves them plenty of energy and calories since growing teeth is no easy task.

Again, just like the anteater, these animals with no teeth use their tongue to pick up ants and termites. They break them down by swallowing small stones which break down the food in their stomachs.

Pangolins don’t have a problem sticking insects to their tongue either, since their saliva is very sticky.


8. Platypuses

Scientific name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Platypuses actually have teeth when they’re born, but they drop these teeth out very early. They grind food by using horny plates. They don’t need teeth either way, since they feed on worms, larvae, shrimp and other small animals.

Interestingly, even though they don’t need it for feeding, platypuses produce venom. This venom is intended to be used exclusively for defensive purposes and it’s only found with males.

They inject the venom via an ankle spur. It’s potent enough to kill smaller animals, but it’s not dangerous for humans. However, the pain the venom causes is so excruciating that it can incapacitate a person regardless.


9. Toads

Scientific name (order): Anura

Even though frogs have teeth, toads usually don’t, especially toads from the family Bufonidae. Similar to a few other entries on this list, they use their sticky tongue to catch insects, after which they swallow them whole.

In fact, their tongues are so sticky and their mouths are so powerful that some toads can kill mice, small birds and snakes just by pressing hard enough with their mouths!


10. Echidnas

Scientific name (family): Tachyglossidae

You can only find these extremely rare mammals with no teeth in Australia and New Guinea, where they grind their food instead of chewing it. They have no teeth, and they can only process food by pressing it against the bottom of their mouths with their tongues.

They mostly eat ants and termites, while the long-beaked echidna eats worms and insect larvae. Interestingly, their tongues have tiny sharp spines that allow them to capture prey, similar to the way anteaters do.

They also have sharp spikes on the sides of their jaws that help the eating process.


11. Worms

Scientific name (phylum): Annelida

The last entry on our list, worms, don’t have any teeth – but their mouths are incredibly strong for their size. They mainly feed on soil, decaying fruit, vegetables, animals and other decaying organisms.

Most worms use their strong mouths to rip off food that they want to eat. If they come across something that they can’t fit in their mouths and they can’t bite it off – they’ll just leave it and move around it.


To End

Most animals with no teeth don’t even need them. Taking anteaters as the best example for this – growing teeth would be a tiring and an unnecessary process for these animals.

There are also animals like toads and birds that could greatly benefit from growing some. Especially if we take into account that they often prey on other animals.

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