Do Turtles Have Teeth? (Not Exactly…)

Turtles love getting a hold of their favorite grub for snacking on, and who could blame them?

But do turtles have teeth?

And if they don’t…

How does a turtle bite its food?

We’ll be listing everything you need to know about these egg-laying reptiles and their eating habits in this article.

Key Takeaway:

Turtles do not have teeth. A turtle bites using its beak, which is made up of keratin sheaths. Some species have sharp serrated edges on their beaks that help them cut into food.

Why do some people say baby turtles have teeth? And what is all this talk about snapping turtles having teeth?

We’ll be breaking down myths about the turtle bite and their beaks coming up next in this article. Go on, get your teeth stuck in it!

a turtle opening its mouth

Do Turtles Have Teeth?

Turtles love a good meal.

Baby turtles eat insects, small fish, and aquatic plants. They have quite an impressive appetite and eat several times a day.

Carnivorous turtles like to snack on fish, worms, snails, and slugs. Omnivores will help themselves to a nice mix of meat, plants, and vegetables.

Herbivorous turtles will devour seaweed, algae, and seagrass. Yep, every turtle species enjoys tucking into its favorite treats.

But do turtles have teeth?

And if they don’t…

…How do they munch on their delicious grub?

Let’s find out.

Does a Turtle Have Teeth?

We all want to know more about our favorite turtle species and how it goes about tucking into its dinner.

How many teeth does a turtle have?

Turtles do not have teeth. There is not a species of turtle with teeth, neither land nor sea turtles.

So, how do they eat?

Turtles do not shy away from engulfing a plate of their favorite tasty goodies. But they don’t have teeth to help them do this.

Here’s their secret.

A turtle’s beak is made up of keratin sheaths. You will find these sheaths located around the edges of the turtle’s jaw.

How do these sheaths help them eat?

Well, some of them have sharp edges and serrations. These tools make it easier for many sea turtles to rub the algae off of rocks to eat.

Sea turtles also have super tough jaws that help them to crunch and grind through tough food like mollusks and crabs.

Now, that’s what we call impressive. Imagine trying to chew one of those raw!

Turtles with sharp edges and serrations on their beaks use these to cut through meat and chop plants ready for swallowing. Their beaks are sharp and continue to grow throughout their lives.

Carnivorous Turtles

Every turtle species has a slightly different-shaped beak that helps them cut through the food they eat. Carnivorous turtles have a beak that helps them to shred their meat into smaller pieces before they swallow it.

This is what the beak of this carnivorous animal looks like.

  • Carnivorous turtles have a hooked beak structure.
  • Their sharp, pointed beaks allow them to piece and kill their prey.

Snapping Turtles

Common snapping turtles are carnivorous animals known for their powerful bite. But snapping turtles do not have teeth.

So, what makes their bite so strong?

Adult snapping turtles have incredibly strong beak-like jaws. The turtle’s head and neck are very flexible, and this helps it quickly bite its prey, even when located to the side or behind the turtle.

The common snapping turtle, although a carnivorous turtle, would be reluctant to bite humans despite popular belief. When aggravated, they hiss and would prefer to retreat rather than confront.

These animals are at the top of the food chain and do not feel threatened by smaller animals.

snapping turtle with its mouth open

Omnivorous Turtles

Omnivorous turtles eat both meat and plants. The structure of this turtle’s beak helps them to cut plant, meat, and vegetable matter into smaller pieces before swallowing.

Here are some of the characteristics of an omnivorous turtle’s beak.

  • The turtle’s mouth shape is a mix between a carnivorous turtle and a herbivorous turtle.
  • They have tough beaks.
  • They have pointed beaks, but they are not as pointy as those of carnivorous turtles.

Freshwater Turtles

Some freshwater turtles, such as the pig-nosed turtle, are omnivorous. Pig-nosed turtles have a fleshy pig-like snout but do not have teeth.

The alligator snapper is a carnivorous freshwater turtle with a bite so powerful it has been known to amputate the human finger.

This turtle’s bite is not one to mess with!

Herbivorous Turtles and Tortoises

Some turtle species are herbivorous, snacking only on plants and vegetable matter. This turtle’s jaw was designed to match its feeding habits, mainly relatively soft foliage.

Here are some of the characteristics of a herbivorous turtle’s beak.

  • Their beaks are broad and flat.
  • Their beaks help them to cut plant and vegetable material and mash it before they swallow.
  • Their beaks are tough but short.
  • Most herbivorous turtles have serrations around their jaws, which act like animal teeth and help them to swallow food.

Land Tortoises

Some tortoises, like the Santiago island giant tortoise, are massive, impressive members of our animal kingdom. But although they are huge, they do not have teeth and feed on low-growing vegetation.

Other types of tortoises, such as the Hermann’s tortoise, the Russian tortoise, and the Gopher tortoise, are all herbivores. These tortoises bite through plants and vegetables without the help of teeth.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles use their tongues to help them push food into their mouths and swallow it. Each species of sea turtle has slightly different shaped beaks that help them to tend to their varying diets.

(More about whether sea turtles have teeth and how they eat their food in just a mo).

Do Baby Turtles Have Teeth?

There is no such thing as a toothed turtle. Turtles use their beaks to soften and snap their meals and help them chew their food.

But, let’s now discuss baby turtles.

Do they have teeth? And if so, how many teeth do turtles have?

Baby turtles have something called an egg tooth. Their egg tooth (caruncle) is not really a tooth as it is just a tiny bump made from keratin.

The egg tooth is on the front of the baby’s beak. Newborn turtles use it to tap on the shell of the egg to break it open and escape.

A few days after escaping from their eggs, the egg tooth falls off. Yes, the “toothy” days of a turtle are really short-lived.

Do Sea Turtles Have Teeth?

Several sea turtle species are carnivorous and eat jellyfish, crabs, and mollusks. Other sea turtles eat algae, seaweed, and sea plants.

So, the important question is…

…How do sea turtles bite into and chew their food?

Sea turtles do not have teeth to help them chew their food. They use their tongues to push their food into their mouths.

The type of beak the sea turtle has depends on its species. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Green Sea Turtle

Green sea turtles are beautiful creatures.

During their adult lives, their diet consists mainly of seagrass. When the green sea turtle is a baby, it eats a more carnivorous diet.

Here’s what the green sea turtle’s beak looks like.

  • It has a short, unhooked snout.
  • The upper jaw does not have teeth, but its edge has tooth-like projections.
  • The lower jaw does not have teeth, but it has tooth-like projections. The projections on the lower jaw are sharper, more profound, and serrated. The serrations on the jaws of green sea turtles help them to scrape algae off of rocks to eat.

Leatherback Sea Turtle

The leatherback turtle is the largest turtle found in the world. Adult leatherback sea turtles prey mainly on jellyfish.

Here’s what their beak looks like.

  • Leatherback sea turtles have softer beaks than the other sea turtle species.
  • They have sharp cusps or points on their beaks. These cusps may look like turtle teeth, but they are not.
  • Their jaws are like scissors.
  • The leatherback sea turtle has backward-pointing spines in its mouth that helps it retain the jellyfish it swallows.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead turtles are omnivorous. These turtles chew invertebrates, sponges, corals, fish, and crustacean prey while swimming.

Here’s what these aquatic turtles’ beaks look like.

  • The loggerhead turtle eats with the help of large, strong jaws.
  • They have wide heads.
  • Like other marine turtles, this turtle bites through crabs and mollusks using its tough jaws.

Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill turtles are different from other turtles due to their beak-like mouths, similar to those of the bird species.

Here’s what this turtle’s beak looks like.

  • The curvy, pointed beaks of the Hawksbill turtle help you distinguish them from other types of sea turtles.
  • The edges of the turtle’s beak are serrated.
  • For the majority of this turtle’s life, it will feed mainly on sponges. The shape of its beak helps it to slice into sponges.

Fun Facts About Turtle Teeth

No two species of turtle are alike. There are so many interesting things to learn about them!

Now, we’ve already learned that turtles do not have teeth, but although they don’t, there are still a whole host of interesting things you will love to find out about their beaks and how they eat.

Coming up next, we’ve listed some of our favorite facts about turtles and their “teeth”…or lack of them. Check them out!

  • Turtles are the only reptiles that do not have teeth.
  • Some sea turtles have broad plates inside their beaks. These rigid plates help them break open mollusks and crabs to eat.
  • Snapping turtles, despite their name, do not have teeth.
  • The alligator snapping turtle does not have teeth, but it has an immensely powerful jaw. It closes its mouth with impressive speed and force. It is so strong that this turtle has been known to amputate a human finger.
  • The red-footed tortoise is not a herbivore, but rather, an omnivore. Possible giant carnivorous tortoises are currently being observed to see how they capture and chew their food.
  • Some turtles feed on hard-shelled animals. They have a very strong bite force to be able to break the shells open. The Mesoclemmys nasuta is a turtle species with one of the strongest bite forces known to date.
  • Some turtles have many predators, and to keep themselves safe, they use their pointed beaks as a defense mechanism.
  • The Florida softshell turtle has a nose that looks like a snorkel. When these turtles lay eggs, they come to land. Other than that, they spend almost all of their time in the water. These turtles do not have sharp beaks, but rather, soft lips.
turtle biting its food

The Secret to How a Turtle Bites

Turtles and tortoises love eating. Their ability to swallow meat and plant matter has a lot of people wondering…

….Do turtles have teeth?

It is not true that turtles have teeth. Turtles have sharp, strong beaks, which they use to eat their prey and chop plant material.

Baby turtles have a small egg tooth they use to break open their egg and escape. This is just a lump of keratin that falls off a couple of days after the turtle hatches.

Turtles also use their beaks to defend themselves when they feel threatened.

Did you enjoy reading this article?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide our readers with interesting articles about the modern turtle. For more information about the common box turtle, Russian tortoise, spotted turtle, and other animals, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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