Animal teeth are adapted for getting and chewing food. They can also be used for other purposes, such as protection or even building their homes!
Animals that eat meat are called carnivores. They have large canine teeth to hold and tear meat. Wolves, tigers, cats, and dogs are carnivores and have lots of sharp canine teeth. They need these strong, sharp teeth for catching and holding their prey. They bite their prey and tear the meat into pieces. They do not chew their food well, swallowing it whole or in large chunks. Some fish have teeth to help them catch their prey.
Animals that eat only plants are called herbivores. A herbivore’s long front incisors have sharp edges that are good for cutting grass and leaves. They have large molars at the back of their mouths for grinding and crushing the stems, leaves, fruits, seeds, and roots of plants. Their flat molars are used for grinding the plants. The long front incisors of beavers and squirrels can break into nuts and seeds. Squirrels crack nutshells with their teeth. (Don’t you try that!) Beavers, squirrels, and other rodents have teeth that keep growing all their lives. They sharpen their teeth by gnawing as they eat. Grazing animals such as horses, cows, and sheep need their large back molars for grinding up grass and grain.
Animals that eat both plants and animals are called omnivores. They have both canines and molars. Are you a carnivore, a herbivore, or an omnivore? Animals have a much simpler diet than people do.