North Carolina Fish With Human-Like Teeth Explained

A jarring photograph of a fish with human-looking teeth made its way around the interwebs in early August. The photo came after a fisherman caught a sheepshead in North Carolina off Jennette's Pier in Nag's Head on August 3. The photo posted on Facebook by Jennette's Pier shows an opened-mouth shot of the unlucky fish, which has teeth that look eerily of the human variety — even better than some human teeth, actually. 

The black and silvery striped fish is a sheepshead, which is also sometimes called a convict fish. According to Scientific American, it is a common one that anglers catch up and down the East Coast of the U.S., into the Gulf of Mexico, and all the way down to Brazil.

A lot of commenters to the Facebook post were familiar with sheepshead and noted how delicious they are. Others who had never seen the fish before thought the picture could be photoshopped. In response, one woman said, "I've caught a ton of them and sometimes the teeth look just like that." 

Sheepshead have human looking teeth because they are omnivores like us

According to the Florida Museum, sheepshead fish eat both plants and animals, including oysters, crabs, clams, crustaceans, and small fish. Per the museum, they only eat "occasional plant material." Who knew we humans had so much in common with a fish? 

It's because of their diet that sheepshead need their unique teeth, which are used to crush the shells of their prey and scrape barnacles off of pilings and rocks. Scientific American reported that an adult sheepshead has incisors in the front of its jaw, three rows of molars in the upper-rear jaw, and two more rows of molars in the lower-rear jaw — as well as some heavy grinders in the latter.

Per Scientific American, it's this variety of teeth in sheepshead fish that enable the striped fish to really get their seafood buffet on. After all, they don't have the luxury of crab cracking tools or oyster shucking knives. You could even say ... sheepshead are crushing it.