Meet the Sheepshead — The Fish with Human Teeth

Is there actually a fish with human teeth? It may be uncanny, but there is good reason behind the toothy appearance of the sheepshead fish.

By Monica Cull
Jun 12, 2023 4:00 PMAug 23, 2023 2:49 PM
Sheepshead Fish Teeth
(Credit: Elonsy/Shutterstock)


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No, it’s not Photoshop; this fish has human-like teeth. Meet the sheepshead fish — Archosargus probatocephalus. While this fish made quite a stir in 2021 after an angler posted an image of the fish on social media, the sheepshead has been well-known for centuries. There is even a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, named after the fish. 

While plenty of fish have teeth, there are not many fish with human teeth. Here is more information on our toothy twin. 

Why Does the Sheepshead Fish Have Human-Like Teeth? 

(Credit: mpwoodib/Getty Images)

Much like humans, sheepshead fish are omnivores. Their diet consists mainly of crustaceans, clams, oysters and occasional plant material. Instead of sharp, pointy teeth for catching prey, they use their strong, flat, rectangular teeth to help crack and grind up the hard shells of their prey. 

sheepshead fish’s front teeth are similar to human incisors, while its back teeth are similar to human molars. According to the Florida Museum, part of the University of Florida, while the incisors are arranged at the front of the fish’s jaw, the molars are arranged in three rows on the upper jaw and two rows on the lower jaw. 

Read More: Meet the Mudskipper: The Fish That Walks on Land

How Did the Sheepshead Fish Get its Name?

According to the BBC, the sheepshead fish gets its name from its uncanny resemblance to a sheep’s mouth. Sheep and other herbivores, such as cows and goats, have flat, rectangular teeth that help them chew plant material. 

(Credit: anueing/Shutterstock)

Sheep are ruminants — an animal that typically has four stomach chambers that allow them to break down and digest plant material better. To do that, though, the sheep will regurgitate the plant matter and grind it up with its back molars — similar to how the sheepshead fish uses its back teeth to grind up shells. 

Sheepshead fish are also known as convict fish because their gray and black striped scales look like a stereotypical jail uniform. They’ve also been known to steal bait right off an angler’s hook.

Read More: Do Fish Feel Pain?

Where Do Sheepshead Fish Live?

Sheepshead fish are typically found in the coastal waters of Nova Scotia, Canada, all the way to the southeastern coast of Brazil. According to the Florida Museum, the highest concentration of sheepshead fish are around southwestern Florida and are not seen in the Bahamas, Bermuda, West Indies, and Grenada.

They were once an abundance of sheepshead fish in the New England area. However, they are rarely seen there now. 

Read More: The Real Reason Global Fish Stocks Are Declining — And What You Can Do About It

Do Other Fish Have Human Teeth?

While there have been reports of fish with human teeth attacking divers, most of those have been proven false. However, a 2017 study from the University of Sheffield found that pufferfish and humans share a similar gene that makes their teeth. 

Pufferfish don’t necessarily have teeth. Its teeth are fused together to form a beak which it uses for attacking prey and keeping itself safe. 

Read More: Fish Can Count, Along with Other Animals

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