Why did the sunfish visit the dentist?

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.

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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

 

3 Comments

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

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

    1. Author

      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!

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