Whale Sharks Have Tiny Teeth on Their Eyeballs
by Nora McGeevey/Smithsonianmag.com
Whale sharks are known as gentle, bespeckled giants that swim in tropical seas and scoop up plankton with their cavernous mouths. According to new research, they also have a sharp eye—literally: their eyes are covered in tiny teeth.
The “dermal denticles” are modified, tiny teeth that cover the whale shark’s eyeballs, according to marine biologists from Japan’s Okinawa Churashima Research Center, who published their discovery in PLOS One Tuesday.
Whale sharks and other shark species have dermal denticles that cover their bodies and act like scales, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal. The tiny, V-shaped pieces decrease drag and turbulence as sharks glide through the water, which helps them swim faster. They can also provide protection against other sharks who might bite them, reports Bob Yirka for Phys.org.
Eyeball teeth, however, probably serve as protective armor against the elements, reports George Dvorsky for Gizmodo. Whale sharks’ eyes have no eyelids and poke out on either side of their heads, which makes them vulnerable to exposure.
“Considering that these tissues are exposed and that whale sharks lack eyelids; the eye surface is less protected from mechanical damage than other regions of the body that are covered with mineralized dermal…read more: