Why did the sunfish visit the dentist?

That’s not a joke, honest (although if you have a punchline for it, leave us a comment!).

Judy Hinchliffe, a forensic odontologist (dentist) for the Wellington region, visited Te Papa’s lab today to take a closer look at the sunfish’s teeth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a little unusual for Judy as her day job is using dentistry to identify human remains. But fittingly for a woman who spends all day examining dental records, she’s fascinated with teeth and wanted to take a closer look at our unusual sharp-tail sunfish specimen.

Sunfish teeth are actually fused together to form a “beak”, which helps sunfish to hold onto their slippery jelly fish prey.

Bizarrely they do have long, claw-like teeth further down their throat, close to their gills, that scientists think are used to grind their food into smaller pieces.

Take a look at this rather gruesome picture of a common (ocean) sunfish’s teeth in situ:

Gill arch teeth of an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) Photographer: Keryn Parkinson © Australian Museum

Gill arch teeth of an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) Photographer: Keryn Parkinson © Australian Museum

Check back later in the week for a Q&A with Judy as we find out why she is so fascinated with teeth!

Watch sunfish science live!

Watch live from 2.30pm NZ time 13 Aug 2013

Te Papa’s scientists will be conducting research on our sunfish specimen on 13 August 2013. We’ll be live-blogging and sharing the scientists’ findings through Facebook and Twitter.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to sit in as scientists do their research on these rarely seen animals. Don’t miss out!

Read our sunfish science blogs.

Use #sunfishtepapa to join in the conversation on Twitter.

Follow the action on Facebook.

Watch live from 2.30pm NZ time 13 Aug 2013

3 Responses

  1. Paul

    Why did the sunfish visit the dentist?
    To let Judy examine a Mola!

    Reply
  2. Lucy

    Loving the webcast – we can hear them now – any chance you can blog an update of what they are up to?

    Reply
    • tepapamuseum

      We’ll be live-blogging the whole event – stay tuned! Commentary will start shortly – so you can keep listening on the webcast. If you have any questions, ask them on the blog or tweet us @Te_Papa using the hashtag #sunfishtepapa – thanks for watching!

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)