Dolphin Teeth

When it comes to the dolphin species all dolphins are part of the toothed whale suborder and teeth are one of the characteristics that are present among all of the toothed whale family.

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)

How many teeth do dolphins have?

The number of teeth a dolphin has varies by species, however it is estimated that some species may have as many as 250 teeth.

For example the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin has between 80 – 100 teeth, while the short-beaked common dolphin has as many as 240 teeth.

Despite having teeth not all dolphins use their teeth for chewing or breaking apart their prey.

Some species only use their teeth to grab onto their prey and will consume their food whole, while other species don’t appear to have any real use for their teeth at all.

Below you can find a list containing the estimated number of teeth of different dolphin species.

Number of teeth of various dolphin species

White-beaked dolphin has 22 – 28 pairs of small teeth on the upper and lower jaw.

Long-beaked common dolphin  has 47 – 67 sharply pointed teeth on each side of its jaw.

Short-beaked common dolphin has 50 – 60 small sharp teeth on each side of its jaw.

Arabian common dolphin may have up to 57 pairs of sharp conical teeth on the upper and lower jaws.

Common bottlenose dolphin has 18 – 29 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Indian ocean or Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin has 23 – 29 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Chilean dolphin has 28 – 34 teeth on each side of its upper jaw and 29 – 33 teeth on each side of its lower jaw.

Chinese white dolphin – Unconfirmed estimates are between 100 – 160 teeth in total.

Clymene dolphin has 36 – 52 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Commerson’s dolphin – rough estimates are between 102 – 120 teeth in total.

Costero dolphin has 26 – 36 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Dusky dolphin has 24 – 36 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Franciscana dolphin (aka La Plata dolphin) has 50 – 63 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Fraser’s dolphin has 20 – 44 pairs of small teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Heaviside’s dolphin – Unknown.

Hector’s dolphin has 24 – 31 pairs of teeth in its upper and lower jaw.

Hourglass dolphin has 24 – 36 pairs of teeth in its upper and lower jaw.

Atlantic Humpback dolphin has 26 – 31 pairs of teeth in its upper and lower jaw.

Indian Humpback dolphin has 30 – 34 small cone-shaped teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Pacific Humpback dolphin has 30 – 34 peg-like teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Irrawaddy dolphin has 12 – 20 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Orca (killer whale) has 10 – 14 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

False killer whale has 8 – 13 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Pygmy killer whale 8 – 13 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Melon-headed whale has 20 – 26 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Peale’s dolphin – Rough estimates are between 34 – 66 teeth on the upper and lower jaw.

Northern right whale dolphin has between 37 – 54 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Southern right whale dolphin has between 34 – 39 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Rough-toothed dolphin has 19 – 28 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.

Spinner dolphin has between 45 – 65 teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Pantropical spotted dolphin has between 35 – 48 teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Long-finned pilot whale has between 18 – 24 teeth in its upper and lower jaw.

Short-finned pilot whale has between 14 – 18 teeth in its upper and lower jaw.

Risso’s dolphin has a total of 72 – 104 teeth.

Amazon river dolphin has 24 – 34 teeth on both sides of its upper and lower jaw.

Chinese river dolphin has 30 – 36 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Ganges river dolphin has 29 – 36 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Indus river dolphin has 26 – 39 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Australian snubfin dolphin has 22 – 44 teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Striped dolphin has 43 – 50 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Tucuxi dolphin has 26 – 36 pairs of teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Atlantic white-sided dolphin has 30 – 40 teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

Pacific white-sided dolphin has 23 – 26 teeth on each side of its upper and lower jaw.