Do Turtles Have Teeth? [Or Tongue, Beak, etc?]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If anything seems even marginally appetizing to a turtle, it will likely be gobbled up. It doesn’t even have to seem appetizing. It’s rather interesting to watch them munch with their small jaws on these things. How can their physical structure accommodate this ravenous appetite? Do they have teeth? Or do they depend on anything else?

Turtles don’t have any teeth, and use their beaks to both bite and chew the food that they eat. The egg tooth is present in baby turtles when they are first hatched, however, these teeth fall out within a few days after hatching.

As you may have anticipated, not all turtles have beaks that are the same. Some of them have beaks that resemble saws, while others have beaks that are pointed and spikey, and others have their mouths covered in spikes.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a more in-depth look at turtles and the many mouths that they may possess.

What Defines A Turtle?

They are quite peculiar in nature. Even the word “turtle” might be difficult to understand.

Either “Testudines” or “Chelonia” may be used to refer to these egg-laying reptiles with scaly shells, both are considered to be the general name. Neither of those terms is often used!

Although some people refer to all of these animals as “turtles,” this classification is not entirely accurate.

It is generally better to remain with the name “tortoises” for animals that inhabit the land, “terrapins” for animals that inhabit fresh water, and “turtles” for animals that inhabit salt water.

Because tortoises are unable to swim, it is imperative that you differentiate them from other reptiles such as turtles and terrapins.

Although there are certain morphological qualities that are shared by all turtles, several groups of turtles also have their own unique traits.

There is often a significant amount of variation across species with regard to the form of the skull and jaws.

Some of them can have a hook-like beak form, similar to that of a number of different bird species. Others can have a jaw that is far more curved, and others, just like a pig-nosed turtle, can have growths that are quite unlike anything else.

Even though turtles lack teeth, this doesn’t really indicate that their mouths are particularly tender. Turtles still have a keratin border that lines the inside of their jaws which is very tough and often sharp.

These edges may be quite sharp and form like a sharpened ridge, this gives them an appearance similar to that of a series of teeth.

On the other hand, these are not oral features in the same way that genuine teeth are.

Do Turtles Chew Their Food?

Because they do not consume anything that has to be chewed, turtles do not develop teeth. The vast majority of turtles found in their natural habitat are herbivores and get their sustenance from aquatic plants.

As a consequence of this, they do not require extremely powerful grinding and chewing forces in order to digest their meal. Instead, nature has provided these cute reptiles with something even finer to aid their feeding habits.

The beak of a turtle is similar to the beak of a bird and has jagged corners, these corners allow turtles to both chop and munch the submerged vegetation that is essential to their survival.

The top jaws of turtle species that live in river environments have thick, skeletal plates that assist them to crush the harder plants present in river beds.

This allows these turtle species to be even more advanced than those that live in other environments. These particular modifications are termed secondary plates. The additional plates also come in helpful when consuming snails and other shell food sources.

The diet of a turtle will vary on the unique species. Some are fully herbivores, whereas others might be carnivores and omnivores.

The anatomy of the turtle will be directly influenced by its diet since certain types of food need the consumption of a more pointed mouth.

In spite of the fact that they lack teeth, they are able to chew their food well because of the spikes that are present in their keratin jaws.

The fact that this is often a drawn-out procedure that aids in the digestion of food before it is swallowed is another factor that contributes to the widespread misconception that turtles possess teeth.

Do Tortoises Chew Their Food?

Just like turtles, tortoises don’t have teeth either. As opposed to this, the mouth has a rough edge similar to a beak that shreds and smashes food.

In addition, saliva is secreted, which helps break down the meal into smaller, more manageable bits by making it softer and mushier.

Because of the structure of their jaws, tortoises are able to begin the process of eating by biting into their meal, nevertheless, they are unable to chew their food.

As soon as the meal reaches their lips, they begin preparing to swallow it together with their saliva.

Because of the role that their salivary glands play, the consistency of the food they eat is significantly altered so that it is simpler for them to swallow.

However, tortoises have a very strong jaw that enables them to bite off their prey pretty swiftly without any difficulty.

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Carnivorous tortoises, and notably durophagous tortoises, have the most powerful bite compared to other types.

Tortoises belonging to the genus Durophagus that consume the flesh of animals with tough exoskeletons, which requires them to have more powerful jaws.

Because other species of tortoise are only able to consume vegetation that is somewhat tender, these tortoises do not need particularly powerful bites.

The Variation Of Turtle Mouth

Because turtles are among the most adaptable creatures on The planet, it is not difficult to fathom that, in response to the composition of their food, they were able to modify the form of their mouths to adequately meet their requirements. For example,

Carnivore Turtles

Carnivory is common in marine turtles. These include turtles found in saltwater, the adult loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), and also the subadult green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).

Turtles found in freshwaters, such as species of snapping turtles and musk turtles are also carnivorous.

When a carnivorous turtle does consume plants, it should not come as much of a surprise since such behavior is not uncommon.

On the other hand, the majority of the meals they eat are derived from animals. These carnivorous turtles have beaks or jaws that provide them with hunting skills and consume food in an effective manner.

Snapping Turtle

Those who have beaks have spikes that are razor sharp and a pointy tip on their beaks. They cling onto their prey with their powerful beaks like birds, until they are submerged in water.

These beaks are also able to readily puncture and rip apart the flesh without any difficulty.

As was mentioned previously, some species of turtles, such as snappers, are strong enough to break a broom in half. They have little possibility of saving the raw skeletons of the smaller animals that they kill.

Carnivorous turtles, like the black softshell turtle, have long nostrils that resemble snorkels and lips that are pliable.

They are predatory that hide in ambushes and calmly wait for their prey. They are able to rapidly attack and consume their victim in its entirety once they have caught it.

Herbivore Turtles

Herbivore turtles mostly intake plant-based food. As a result, they consume a great deal of food that comes from plants, including a variety of vegetables, fruits, and greenery.

Because of this, their beaks do not need to be very sharp rather they need to be robust and capable of slicing through the majority of plant materials.

Some of these plant-eating turtles have tiny spikes on their jaws to aid in cutting the plants.

As a consequence, as opposed to their carnivorous counterparts, herbivores do not have beaks or jaws that are sharp or pointed but possess very strong beaks.

Omnivore Turtles

Many species of freshwater turtles, including but not limited to cooters (species of Pseudemys), painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), and map turtles (species of Graptemys), among others, are omnivores.

As a result, their diet consists both of animal and plant matter. Their beaks had changed in order to better consume certain meals.

Even though their beaks are acute and pointy, they are in no way comparable to the beaks of carnivorous turtles. Their beaks, on the other hand, are more comparable to those of herbivore turtles.

Do Sea Turtles Have Teeth?

Although their beaks may not be as sharp as those of carnivorous freshwater turtles like the snapping turtle, sea turtles are often carnivorous when they are juvenile. As a result, marine turtles have pointy mouths.

There are many species of turtles with pointy beaks, including the olive ridley sea turtle, the green sea turtle, and the loggerhead turtle.

Due to the fact that their lips are covered with a large number of spikes, they have a very terrifying appearance.

There are other kinds of sea turtles, such as the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the green sea turtles, both of which have serrated tomium. Tomium is the technical term for the sharp cutting tip of the beak.

The jaws of leatherbacks, loggerheads, and green sea turtles, among other species, are armed with spikes.

Even while it appears terrifying, this is really just dangerous for their primary food source, which is jellyfish. The turtle is shielded from the painful stinging of the jellyfish by the thorns inside its mouth.

The teeth, which look like hundreds of stalactites and are referred to as ‘papillae,’ surround the turtle’s mouth all the way back into its esophagus and in the digestive tract.

Because it primarily consumes jellyfish, the leatherback turtle is not the kind of carnivorous animal that one would anticipate it to be.

The sharp, backward-pointing papillae serve the purpose of assisting in eating a large quantity of the sliding jellyfishes by stopping them from flowing out the rear of its mouth and help to swallow.

In addition, the digestion of jellyfish is helped along by an esophagus that is stretched out and wraps all around inside the belly and back.

This demonstrates that the leatherback turtle is able to consume every kind of jellyfishes, ranging from the massive Lion’s Mane to more manageable swarms.

However, this turtle, which is at risk of becoming extinct, is unable to differentiate between jellyfish and plastic bags.

Because of this, on #WorldTurtleDay individuals ought to enlighten everyone (and ourselves) about the importance of being more cautious with our trash.

There is no denying that leatherback sea turtles are among the most important creatures on our planet, despite the fact that their jaws may often give off a terrifying appearance. Without them, the environment would be quite different in a manner that is not desirable.

Do Tortoises Have Teeth?

Tortoises without teeth include the Red-footed tortoise, Santiago Island Giant Tortoise, Gopher Tortoise, Hermann’s tortoise, Common box turtle, and others.

The corners of their lips are pointed and serve the same purpose as the beak of a bird. In the same fashion, their beaks are fairly robust and are equipped of doing some heavy biting.

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The Russian tortoise (Agrionemys horsfieldii) has robust short beaks that are serrated all along the border and cusps with a few microscopic spikes.

These jagged beaks perform the function of teeth and assist the tortoises in tearing up the plants it consumes. Because these turtles consume plenty of plants, vegetables, and fruits, a diet rich in these is ideal for them.

Do Snapping Turtles Have Teeth?

Because they belong to the family of reptiles known as turtles, snapping turtles do not possess any teeth. However, they are most notorious for the viciousness of their bite.

There are a number of different species of snapping turtles, however, they are all classified under the family Chelydridae. The common snapping turtle is the most well-known of the species.

They are a species of turtle that lives in freshwater and their diet consists of both herbivore and carnivorous foods. The bite of the common snapping turtle is quite powerful and may be utilized to consume a wide range of animals as well as other meals.

Adult snapping turtles are often the highest-ranking species in their food chain, despite the fact that their eggs are susceptible to being eaten by scavengers such as birds and other animals.

They are often the masters of their realm and have little cause for concern as a result. Because of this, they often do not show any signs of fear when confronted by humans.

Do Baby Turtles Have Teeth?

Hatchlings are the only form of turtle that even come close to developing teeth. Even though they aren’t formed of the same substance as the majority of teeth, we still refer to them as teeth.

Caruncles, which are sharp temporary teeth, are used by hatchling turtles to crack open their eggshell on their own.

This is necessary for the baby turtles to survive. This “tooth” is certainly not a tooth since it is essentially an outgrowth of their top beak or jaw and it is only seen in newborn hatchlings.

This thin, pointed projection emerges from the front of their beaks and serves the purpose of slicing through the shell. This tooth comes off during the following several days once the hatchlings have broken out of the shell and are free to move around.

Even though turtles don’t have teeth in the traditional sense, the jaws and beaks on their heads serve as an adequate substitute.

Because of the evolution that has occurred over the course of millions of years, turtles do not have teeth.

Do Turtles Have Beaks?

The majority of species of turtles have beaks, which are also called jaws. Such beaks or jaws are very keen and keep growing longer during the course of the turtle’s life.

When living in the wild, the beaks are continually being worn down, which happens at the same rate as they are growing.

This maintains the appropriate size of the beak. When they are kept in captivity, the beak can need occasional trimming.

Before ingesting their meal, turtles use both the top and the bottom beaks to bite off portions of it, or more accurately, to snip it.

Turtles, like birds, don’t spend a lot of time chewing the food that they eat. They only bite and gulp down.

There are species of turtles, such as the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), that have such a powerful bite that they can break a broom in half and even dislocate a human finger.

There are other turtles that seem to have lips. These turtles consume their target as a whole. They first get their target to come near to them so they may pull it into their jaws, and then they continue to consume it.

Do Turtles Bite?

Even though they lack teeth, turtles are nonetheless able to bite their prey. These bites might be severe enough to tear the skin and cause bleeding when that occurs.

Even if you are feeding turtles or assisting them in crossing a road, it is still your responsibility to take precautions against turtle bites.

The bites of carnivore turtles, like the common snapping turtle, are notorious for being among the most excruciating and devastating.

When they attack people, they are capable of causing significant blood and even breakage. The purpose of a snapping turtle’s bite is not to injure people.

If they perceive that they are in danger from a person, though, they may respond in a protective manner. These kinds of bites are designed to intimidate the much larger human target.

Herbivorous turtles can resort to biting people when they feel threatened.

The vast majority of individuals have the preconceived notion that snapping turtles have the most powerful biting force.

Although they are capable of ripping your finger off, snapping turtles do not have the toughest jaw among the several species of turtles.

The alligator snapping turtle possesses the greatest biting force, measuring in at a staggering a thousand pounds of pressure. It wouldn’t take much force for this to break any part of your body.

Fish, snails, snakes, and clams make up the majority of an alligator snapping turtle’s diet when it is free to roam in the wild.

Do Tortoises Bite?

Do not make the assumption that the absence of teeth renders tortoises completely safe. The powerful beaks of many of them give them the ability to bite.

In one species of tortoise, the red-footed tortoise when courting a potential mate, male specimens often resort to biting the females before they mate with them.

If you see a male red-footed tortoise biting at a female’s limb, it’s likely that he’s trying to seduce her so that they may have offspring together.

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Tortoises kept in captivity have been known to bite their human keepers accidentally on occasion, and the resulting bites may be rather nasty.

Tortoises have been known to mistake people’s legs for a bush and bite it inadvertently as a result. This does not happen very often, though, since tortoises have very good vision.

Regardless of the fact that tortoises do not have teeth, the bites they give to humans may occasionally cause a great deal of discomfort. They are able to pierce the skin and produce lacerations that call for medical treatment.

How Powerful Is The Bite Of The Loggerhead Sea Turtle?

Because of the powerful biting strength of their jaws, loggerhead turtles are able to consume other creatures despite the fact that they lack teeth.

The biting power of a loggerhead is around 500 pounds, according to estimates provided by researchers. This is still more than sufficient power to rip off the thumb of a human being.

Because of their powerful bite, they are able to consume a diverse array of marine life, including conchs, crabs, jellyfish, shrimp, octopus, and a broad variety of fish species.


The Odontochelys turtle is the earliest known species of turtle that has ever been found.

It was initially described using the fossil remains that were unearthed from Upper Triassic rocks in Guizhou, China. These fossils date back to 220 million years!

Odontochelys was an ancient species of turtle that was distinct from current turtles in a number of respects. The beak of a contemporary turtle is thorny, but there are no teeth inside their mouths.

On the contrary, it was revealed in their fossilized bones that this ancient predecessor of the present turtle, contained teeth both on the top and bottom surface of their jaws.

Do Turtles Have Teeth In Their Throat?

If you look at leatherback turtles when they have their mouths open, it may seem as if they had teeth all the way down inside their necks. However, the teeth, which are termed papillae and look like hundreds of thorns, go all the way back to their stomachs.

The spikes are not venomous teeth that are used to scare their victims and tear them to bits, rather their purpose is to prevent them from releasing all of their meal.

When feeding, sea turtles take in a significant amount of saltwater. They swallow food and saltwater simultaneously, which causes their stomach to expand as they feed.

After that, they will throw up all of the water. The meal is trapped by the spikes, which prevent it from escaping. It functions similarly to a backward filter.

The sharp, backward-pointing papillae serve the purpose of assisting the animal in eating a large quantity of the sliding jellyfish out the rear of its mouth.

Do Turtles Have Tongues?

Turtles that live on land and those that live in water have tongues. Although turtles cannot extend their tongues, they do utilize them for a variety of functions, including feeding and breathing.

The majority of the time, turtles will utilize their tongues for feeding and breathing, however, this is not the case for all kinds of turtles.

This peculiarity, as well as the method in which they make use of their tongues, is what makes them fairly intriguing and sets them apart from other reptiles and amphibians.

In contrast to most other reptiles, turtles are unable to extend their mouths in order to capture food.

Turtles that have reached maturity spend most of their lives submerged in water, although hatchlings and juveniles may sometimes come up onto land in search of food.

When baby turtles locate food on shore, they have a difficult time eating it. The only way they are able to consume what they have found is by pulling it back into the sea.

Because of the shape of their tongues, baby turtles have difficulty eating food while they are on dry ground. Therefore, their tongues are not employed for anything other than helping them engulf the meal.

In point of fact, there are several kinds of turtles that do not utilize their mouths at all while they are feeding.

The tongue of the musk turtle is not employed for eating but rather for functioning as an organ of underwater respiration. Their tongues are rather little and are covered with specialized buds all throughout.

These little buds are known as papillae and make it possible for absorbing oxygen from the aquatic surrounding.

The tongues are feeble and tiny, which reveals why they could not utilize their tongues to consume.

The tongues of musk turtles are thought to be the only reason for their exceptional capacity for survival, according to the opinions of several experts.

The species of alligator snapping turtle displays an adaptation that is very fascinating in its own right. These animals utilize their lengthy tongues, which resemble worms, to entice fish into their mouths so they may consume them.

Closing Remarks

Turtles are capable of biting, yet they do not possess any teeth of their own. Surprisingly, newborn turtles are equipped with a caruncle that resembles a tooth, which they use to slice apart their eggshells.

Beaks or lips are common features seen in turtles. Only a small percentage of species of softshell turtles feature lips. These feature soft lips that are toothless and a nose that looks like a snorkel. Every other kind of turtle has a beak.

It is possible for the beaks to have serrations, as is the case with the Russian tortoise, the green sea turtle, and the cooters.

The beaks of turtles are quite competent, which enables them to effectively consume their food.

Lastly, there are species of turtles, such as snappers, that have bites that are powerful enough to remove human fingers.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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