Do Dolphins Have Teeth?

Yes, dolphins do have teeth.

In fact all species of dolphin belong to the toothed whale suborder and teeth are one of the characteristics that are present among all of the toothed whale family (in addition to certain whale species the toothed whale suborder includes all species of dolphin and porpoise).

Although all dolphins are equipped with teeth not all species use their teeth for eating prey or tearing flesh.

Depending on the dolphins species some dolphins (such as the killer whale) will use their teeth to rip apart the flesh of their prey in order to kill it and make it easier to consume while species (such as the bottlenose dolphin) only use their teeth to grip their prey but will consuming their food whole.

Teeth may also be used to show dominance or threaten other cetaceans, especially during mating season, however this is also dependent upon the species.

Lastly, some researchers believe that the dolphins teeth and jaw may play a role in its ability to absorb and detect sound when combined with echolocation.

The number of teeth a dolphin has can vary greatly depending on its species.

Dolphins can have anywhere from a few dozen to over 250 teeth at a given time and some species (such as Risso’s dolphin) may only have teeth that are present on the lower jaw.

In terms of whether or not dolphins are able to taste the food they eat it has been determined that they do have some level of taste, however their sense of taste isn’t studied as well as in other mammals, so the full extent of their ability to taste food and detect differences is unknown.

While not much is known about the dolphins sense of taste they have been known to show preferences in what types of food they enjoy eating when being fed fish at marine parks and aquariums, and when fed foods containing citric flavoring bottlenose dolphins displayed a number of characteristics indicating their ability to taste the citric acids.

One theory suggests that it is also possible that a dolphins sense of taste can play a role similar to smell as these dolphins may be able to detect different objects, foods or threats by tasting differences in the water, however this theory isn’t well-studied.

Types of prey dolphins consume

Most species of dolphin stick to a diet that consists primarily of small fish and squid however there are a few species that also consume larger prey and marine mammals.

Here are some foods that dolphins have been known to consume:

  • Cod (a common fish)
  • Capelin (a common fish)
  • Herring (a common fish)
  • Mackerel (a common fish)
  • Squid (dolphins generally hunt small squid, but a few species may hunt larger species of squid)
  • Plankton (a common food source for fish, dolphins and whales)
  • Krill (a small crustacean; a popular food source among blue whales)
  • Cephalopods (which include octopus, squid and cuttlefish)
  • Penguins (eaten by the killer whale)
  • Sea lions (eaten by the killer whale)
  • Walruses (eaten by the killer whale)
  • Seals (eaten by the killer whale)
  • Sharks (eaten by the killer whale)
  • Seabirds (eaten by the killer whale)
  • Sea turtles (small oceanic turtles)
  • Whales (eaten by the killer whale)