A fisherman at Jennette’s Pier in North Carolina reeled in a surprise from the Atlantic: a fish with human teeth.
Fish with human teeth are real
Except, the sheepshead fish teeth aren’t real human teeth. You just think they look like human teeth.
The sheapshead fish is commonly found swimming along the Atlantic coast, from New York to Brazil. In fact, the Sheepshead Bay near Brooklyn, New York got its name from the fish. The sheepshead can grow up to 3 feet long and dine on a variety of oysters, clams, and crustaceans.
The sheepshead fish has a varied, omnivorous diet. Like humans, the fish sports a set of dull, stubby teeth to get through its ocean meals. An adult sheepshead grows three rows of molars in its upper jaw and two rows in its lower jaw. These molars crunch through the shells of its prey. But it’s the fish’s front teeth that look the most human.
Biologists call this convergent evolution. Clearly, both humans and the sheepshead fish have evolved teeth to perform similar tasks of cutting and crushing hard objects. So, both organisms unsurprisingly grow sets of teeth that somewhat similar!
The phenomenon of convergent evolution happens in surprising and unexpected ways. Evolution tries to solve the same problems over and over again. In similar environments, the simplest solution to the problem just works. For example, different species have evolved similar methods of flight. Even in human beings, different groups of people evolved lighter skin tones through different means to deal with lower amounts of sunlight.
A Tasty Fish
With a set of teeth like that, does a sheepshead fish pose any threat to swimmers or humans? According to the California Academy of Sciences, the answer is probably not. Though these fish with human teeth are not aggressive fish, like any larger fish or animal there is potential to harm a human if they are agitated.
In fact, fisherman prize the sheepshead fish because it’s a tasty catch.