It seemed like a simple question. One any Australian dentist should be able to answer: How many teeth does a platypus have? As it turns out, adults don’t really have any teeth in that duck-billed mouth of theirs (the infant platypus has milk teeth that are shed before adulthood). This egg-laying oddity does share its toothless status with the blue whale. Not bad company if you’re a fan of gorging yourself on krill (I am). Another oddity that inhabits the waters north of Alaska is the Narwhal. The males grow a 10 foot tusk from their jaw which is often classified as a single, very impressive tooth.
Once you move to more solid land, things start to look more familiar. Sumatran rhinos have 28 teeth, four more teeth than their endangered African cousins the White Rhino. Northern White Rhinos may have more teeth in their huge mouths than there are survivors in the wild. Wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo have reduced their numbers to fewer than ten.
Size is no guide on land when it comes to guessing how many teeth it has. Rabbits have more teeth than African elephants. And don’t count on carnivores needing more teeth. Cats and koalas each have 30 teeth, but no self-respecting koala would trade his eucalyptus leaves to bat around a half-dead mouse.
Coming in at 32 teeth are humans and chimps. Apparently, Darwin also had 32 teeth. But giraffes, too? Indeed, they have 32 pearly whites surrounding an enormous, blue tongue. Such intelligent design might provide fodder to the 46% of Americans who believe that “God created man in his present form sometime in the past 10,000 years.”
Pandas and possums also share the same number of teeth: 50. This is hardly surprising. They are both adorable creatures that attract visitors from all over the world, inspire stuffed animals, adorn t-shirts, and evoke squeals of delight from children. The new possum cam at the DC Zoo is something of a national phenomenon.
Closing out the list are the 60-toothers. Say, have you heard the one about the dentist, the crocodile and the sperm whale?
While you’re straining your tongue trying to count the number of teeth in your mouth, be sure that Unrest’s album Perfect Teeth is playing in the background. It’s a dose of high-BPM sugary sweet alt pop courtesy of DC’s own Mark Robinson. It may not match Unrest’s sublime 1992 album, Imperial, but for today Perfect Teeth fits the bill.