London: The suckermouth catfish (Loricariidae) are blessed with extraordinary teeth that have an ability to bend.
And it makes sense for catfish to have bendable teeth, as they scrape food off rocks and other hard surfaces with their mouths - a habit that could easily break rigid teeth.
To find out, Tom Geerinckx, an evolutionary morphologist at Ghent University in Belgium, extracted teeth from five species of scraping suckermouth catfish and analysed their composition and microstructure.
He found that each tooth had a bendable section containing more collagen and significantly less calcium, phosphate and magnesium than the rest of the tooth.
“[The] teeth are very long and skinny and they have a built-in section that’s flexible. That’s absolutely mind-blowing,” New York Scientist quoted Peter Wainwright of the University of California, Davis, as saying.
But catfish are not the only one with such teeth. According to Wainwright, they are also found in some common reef fish that feed by scraping rocks.
“I’ve personally tweaked their teeth and holy cow, they’re bendable,” he said.
His work will be published in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.