Lovely set of dentures right here. Could use some brushing though. (c) VA Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)

We’ve been used to seeing all kinds of wacky, dorky, crazy animals in the wild. Some are scary, some are plain, some are down right amazing. The sheepshead fish makes no exception boasting some incredible dentures that bears an uncanny resemblance to those of humans, including incisors and molars. The fish’s cousins are no less amazing too, for lack of a better word.

Common to North American coastal waters the sheepshead Archosargus probatocephalus can be seen around rock pilings, jetties, mangroves, reefs and piers, and can grow up to around 91 cm in length and weigh up to 9.6 kg. It’s sometimes referred to as the “convict fish” due to its black vertical stripes over its body – a nickname which the sheepshead apparently takes very seriously since it’s often seen stealing bait.

A baby sheaphead fish showing off his still growing teeth. (c)  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

A baby sheaphead fish showing off his still growing teeth. (c) Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The sheepshead, like you’ve most likely noticed and awed in the photos posted in this articles so far, displays well-defined incisors sitting at the front of the jaw, and molars set in three rows in the upper jaw and two rows in the lower jaw. Like humans, it makes good use of these dentures to suit its omnivorous diet consisting of small vertebrate and invertebrate animals, as well as plants. It’s hard and sturdy molars are used to crush to shell of its prey and actually become stronger depending on its environment. If a sheepshead fish has had the chance to grow in an shell-rich prey environment it will grow bigger and stronger teeth than another such fish in a less rich environment.

“There was a significant correlation between increased force production and increased durophagous [shell-crushing] habit. Studies such as this one speak directly to the relationship between maximum functional potential and actual patterns of resource use,” notes L. P. Hernandez from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and P. J. Motta from the Department of Biology at the University of South Florida in a 1997 issue of the Journal of Zoology

The sheepshead is part of an entire family of whackheads, though. The  Sparidae family includes species that engage in various forms of various forms of hermaphroditism, either from male to female, the reverse or unisex – the sheepshead is very confident of its sexuality, however. Salema porgy (Sarpa salpa), now that’s a fish! The Salema porgy has been known about for its psychedelic properties for millennia since its first attested use by aristocrats in the Roman Empire to get high. The Romans had a rather peculiar sense of partying, however, since the Salema porgy gives you one hell of a trip –  hallucinations and terrifying nightmares that can last for several days.

via Scientific American

Enjoyed this story? Like ZME Science on facebook:
Learn about the most amazing things. Get smarter everyday!

You Might Also Like

  • Ruth S

    BTW. It’s BEAR, not Bare, (meaning naked or unadorned.)