Do you wish you had teeth that were as sharp as steak knives? Scientist just discovered the tuatara, a reptile in New Zealand that has three rows of teeth this sharp and actually uses them in a way unlike other reptiles and more like mammals.
Most reptiles like snakes swallow their food whole without taking one bite. Other reptiles have to chew and chew to break anything down. But the tuatara’s teeth can smoothly slice up food just like a sharp knife.
Scientists used to believe that only mammals like us chew our food so well. They assumed it took high metabolism, which reptiles don’t have and we do, to possess complex chewing. Recent tuatara research proves their previous hypothesis wrong.
The tuatara have two rows of teeth on its upper jaw line that line up with the one row on the bottom jaw. The tuatara's teeth can slice a variety of prey such as beetles, spiders, crickets and even small lizards. Even sea birds have been found killed by the tuatara.
To learn more about their teeth, researchers used a computer model to discover that when the tuatara closed its mouth the lower jaw comes forward, each tooth becomes a steak knife and cuts through the food. There is a flexible give in the jaw connection that lets them rotate and tear through food so effectively.
Be thankful for your teeth that work so well that you don’t have to swallow your food whole like a snake, or have to chew and chew it like other reptiles---but also you don’t have to worry about hurting yourself with super sharp tuatara teeth.