Do Penguins Have Teeth? What’s Inside A Penguin’s Mouth?

Penguins almost seem to defy being a bird. They cannot fly and are adept swimmers.

Unlike other birds, they are not lightweight and are adept swimmers. Along the same lines, watching them eat fish and krill is fascinating.

You might be taken aback when the penguins open their mouth and wonder, ‘Do penguins have teeth?’ 

Let’s unravel the mystery.  

Do Penguins Have Teeth? 

Penguins do not have teeth. However, they have serrated needle-like spines on their tongues and the roof of their mouth.

These fleshy serrated spines have sharp ends, bend inwards and grow in rows towards the throat. Made of soft and smooth keratin, these look like stalagmites and stalactites of a cave and are called papillae.  

What Does a Penguin’s Mouth Look Like? What’s Inside a Penguin’s Mouth? 

From the outside, the penguin’s beak with a pointed end looks unique and highly attractive.  

But the inside of its mouth looks extremely weird and menacing when viewed. It has a tongue that is covered with pointed and serrated spikes. The spikes are also present on the roof of the mouth and extend to the throat. 

These spikes are also bent inwards but in the same direction, i.e., towards the throat.  

Why do Penguins Have Teeth? 

Penguins use their papillae to grab onto their food and push it down their throat. These are hook-shaped and help the carnivore penguins grip on to their food like slippery fish well.  

Furthermore, since all spikes bend inwards and in the same direction, they help push the food only in one direction, i.e., towards the throat and down the stomach. 

Because papillae look like teeth, many refer to them as penguin’s teeth. But birds do not have teeth, and hence, they do not chew food. Penguins also do not chew food but use these spikes to swallow food.  

The entire mouth is designed to help the penguins catch food and swallow them well. 

What Are Penguin’s Teeth or Papillae Made of? 

The penguin’s papillae are made of smooth keratin. Rhino horns, human hair, and giraffe hooves are other examples of things made of keratin.  

Even the human tongue has papillae, but they are more prominently pronounced in penguins.  

What Are the Functions of Papillae on The Penguin’s Mouth? 

Foremost, the papillae hold the food from slipping out of the mouth due to its hook-like structure. Secondly, because they are bent inwards and, in a row, they help push the food in the direction of the throat for easy swallowing.  

The hook prevents the food from getting out of the mouth as it would get hooked in the papillae if they tried to escape.  

Are Penguins Teeth Sharp? 

The papillae of the penguins are sharp at the top but bent inwards to form a hook-like structure. It helps hold food and push them in one direction, towards the throat.  

How Many Teeth Do Penguins Have? 

Penguins do not have teeth, but papillae, which are arranged in rows. Therefore, there is no fixed number of these spikes.  

How Do Penguins Chew If They Do Not Have Teeth? 

Like other birds, penguins also do not chew their food but swallow it whole. It is then digested in their stomach.  

To help in digestion, penguins also swallow stones of all sizes, be they pebbles or stones. It helps grind the food in their stomach for better digestion.  

Even the young penguins are fed with regurgitated food that the penguins bring up in their mouth from the stomach.  

Do Baby Penguins Have Teeth? 

When hatched, baby penguins do not have any teeth though a tooth-like bump called ‘egg-tooth’ is seen on their beak.

It helps baby penguins break the hard shell of the egg and come out.  The egg tooth gradually gets absorbed in the beak as the baby penguins grow.  

Do Penguins Have Beaks? 

Penguins have a beak, like other birds. It is pointed at its end and is hook-shaped. It helps them grab and bite into the fish that they catch to eat.  

They also use their beaks to clean themselves, to protect themselves from predators and any threatening attack, including humans, and even for preening themselves, their young ones, and their mates.  

Do Penguins Have Tastebuds? How Many? 

Generally, vertebrates have five basic taste buds. However, most birds lack the tastebuds for sweetness. But studies indicate that penguins have lesser tastebuds than other birds. They also lack the taste buds to help them detect bitter or savory flavors. Hence, they cannot detect any saltiness or sour taste. 

According to a hypothesis, penguins live in the snow, which is the coldest environment on earth. Now, the taste buds cannot function in such ambiance, and hence, they evolved out of the penguins.  

Moreover, penguins have no use of tastebuds as they swallow their food whole.  

Related Read: What Makes A Penguin A Bird? Is A Penguin A Bird? Really!

Do Penguins Bite? If So, Does a Penguin Bite Hurt? 

Penguins can bite with their beaks. However, they are a species that prefer to avoid conflict. Instead of confronting danger, they prefer to hide and be stealthy to stay safe.  

Be it in the wild or in captivity; they would only bite if they feel threatened and have no other way to protect themselves.  

Because penguins have powerful jaws, their bite can be nasty. On average, a penguin’s beak is about three inches long, and it can easily pierce through the flesh and break bones if the penguin bites. Hence, a penguin’s bite can hurt dangerously.  

Related Read: Can Penguins Live In Warm Weather? How Do Penguins Survive Warm Weather?

Wrapping up  

We hope you are no longer confused about whether penguins have teeth or not. While the serrated ridges inside the penguin’s mouth can be easily mistaken for teeth, they are not. Instead, they are prominent papillae that help the penguins catch and swallow food like krill, fish, etc.