A-z - Animals

Fish with terrifying 'human teeth' discovered

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Imagine fishing on a pier when you feel the line being pulled. So happy to take a bite, you reel in your catch, only to find a giant fish. Look at your face as a black and white fish with bulging eyes and teeth like dentures. For some, that will be the end of their fishing career. Today, however, we're going to learn all there is to know about these common fish and why they have such strange teeth. Let's discover the fish with scary human teeth!

What kind of fish has human teeth?

sheep head
Sheephead fish are known for their strange denture-like teeth.

©iStock.com/930947224

The sheepshead is a marine fish with teeth that closely resemble those of humans.

The sheepshead fish (Archosargus probatocephalus) is known for its human-like teeth. Amused by some, horrified by others, these silly looking fish are often caught by fishermen! Their name originated in 1884 when people saw this fish and thought its teeth resembled sheep's.

Today, most people don't interact with sheep heads very often, causing them to perceive sheep heads as human beings. Regardless, it looks like these fish do have a hearty set of false teeth in their mouths!

Let's learn more about sheepshead fish and see if you live near this strange fish.

What is Sheephead?

The sheepshead is a marine fish that lives in saltwater environments. They are medium sized fish, usually growing to 10-20 inches long. Their bodies are flat and round, and their fins allow them to stand upright when threatened.

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The sheepshead has a silvery body with five or six black stripes running vertically from the spine to the abdomen. They are easily recognizable, especially by their distinctive teeth and protruding eyes.

Why do sheep heads have human-like teeth?

While their teeth may look like something out of a horror novel, they're actually useful! Sheep have several teeth in their mouths, although the incisors are what they are famous for. Their teeth are in a single row, blunt and short. Overall, their mouths are hard, with rows of teeth taking up most of the space.

The sharp teeth are for biting, but the teeth of the sheep's head are extremely blunt. Their blunt teeth are perfect for crushing the shells of their favorite prey. With their strong mouths and blunt teeth, they can crack clam shells, crush oysters, and pluck barnacles from upright structures in the water.

Sheephead's favorite foods are oysters, clams, bivalves, barnacles, crabs, and crustaceans. All of these creatures have hard shells, and sheep's heads have specially evolved teeth that help them eat these tough animals. In fact, many fishermen will bring buckets of muscle or oysters with them when they charter a boat. When they reached their preferred location, they smashed some shells and dumped the bucket into the water. In many cases, sheep heads will flock to eat their favorite treats.

Where does the sheep head live?

Sheephead
The sheepshead lives on the East Coast, from Nova Scotia to Brazil.

© iStock.com/Willard

Sheepheads can be found in the western Atlantic Ocean. Their range extends as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Brazil. The highest concentration of sheep's heads is in Florida, but they can be found all over the East Coast.

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In their range, sheepsheads prefer places with marine structures or rocky bottoms where prey can be found. Fishermen cast around breakwaters, docks, bridges, and piers, as sheepheads often feed on the barnacles and muscles that gather around these structures.

Can you catch the sheep's head?

Despite their beauty, many fishermen intentionally keep sheepshead as a sport and food fish. They are not difficult to catch, but they are known for stealing bait from hooks that don't always stick easily in their tough mouths. Most individuals are 3-4 lbs, but larger fish can reach 15 lbs.

Although they are not caught commercially, the sheep's heads are edible. Because of their diet, they are thought to have a slightly shellfish flavor that many people like. Their meat is crispy and tender, perfect for grilling, frying or baking. Anglers love catching these fish to take home for dinner after chartering a boat for the day!

Does the sheep's head bite?

Like most creatures, putting your finger close to the mouth of a sheep's head will most likely result in a bite. Bites pose little danger other than pain. Additionally, sheep heads have sharp dorsal fins that deter predators from biting them, which can be painful to poke. Despite this, these fish do not present any real danger to humans.

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featured image

Sheephead
The sheepshead is also known as the criminal fish because of its vertical stripes.

© iStock.com/Willard


about the author

Colby Maxwell


Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he's not distracted by the backyard bird feeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him what he's learned recently. There's a whole world to learn, and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much of it as he can!

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