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9 of the scariest animal mouths out there
By Bryan Nelson,
Mother Nature Network, 21 September 2016.

Getting eaten alive is not a good way to go, and perhaps it's that fear that makes the mouths of some animals such terrifying sights to behold. In this regard, few animal mouths elicit fear quite like the gummy-pink jaws of a great white shark [pictured top].

These apex sea predators do have some lesser-known competitors in the scary mouths department, however. Have you ever seen the inside of a leatherback turtle’s mouth? Ever caught a glimpse of the human-like pearly whites of a pacu fish? What about the protrusible jaw of a goblin shark?

Prepare for the nightmares that are about to ensue. Here's our list of scary animal mouths that not even Little Red Riding Hood could mistake for grandma's.

1. Lamprey

Photo: Drow_male/Wikimedia Commons

Lampreys might be jawless fishes, but somehow that makes their thorny, suction cup-like mouths even more terrifying.

These parasitic fish use their mouthparts to target an animal's body, then cut with their teeth through surface tissues until they reach blood and body fluid. Though attacks on humans are rare, they are not unheard of.

2. Leatherback sea turtle

Photo: nollyvines/YouTube

No, that's not a sarlaac pit from the "Star Wars" movies. It's the inside of a leatherback sea turtle's gullet, replete with backwards-facing spikes called papillae.

Though you probably don't want to stick your arm down this creature's throat, the good news is that they aren't exactly designed for swallowing people. Leatherback turtles use their barbed throats to consume their favorite prey: slimy, slippery jellyfish. (And Discovery magazine's description of how scientists discovered this information is worth a read!)

Suffice it to say, not even jellyfish are gelatinous enough to ooze out of these intimidating maws.

3. Tiger's tongue

Photo: Tennessee Wanderer/Flickr

You already have enough reasons to fear becoming prey to the world's largest living felines. But did you know that these giant cats also have tongues lined with sharp barbs?

Tigers use their needle-like tongue spurs to lick the fur off their prey. Yikes! This is one zoo animal you don't want to share a kiss with, no matter how tame they might seem in captivity.

4. Pacu fish

Photo: Nisamanee wanmoon//Wikimedia Commons

Zoom in on these pearly whites and you might think you were looking into the mouth of a human. No, this isn't a hoax. The teeth of a pacu fish look eerily human, enough to send shivers down your spine.

Though they are relatives of the piranha, pacu prefer to use their anthropomorphic chompers to crack nuts that fall into the water.

5. Hippopotamus

Photo: Jon Connell/Wikimedia Commons

Considering they are vegetarians, hippos probably have the scariest mouth around. Though their diets are herbivorous, these plump, semi-aquatic behemoths are highly territorial. Their wide yawns are not just for intimidation, either. Hippos are reputed to kill more humans annually than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined.

6. Goblin shark

Photo: Dianne Bray/Wikimedia Commons

The mouths of goblin sharks could very well have inspired the look of the creatures in the "Alien" movies. Like with the aliens in the films, goblin sharks have highly protrusible jaws that can be extended out, almost to the end of their sword-like snouts.

7. Mandrill

Photo: Mathias Appel/Flickr

These colorful primates may have faces seemingly painted to look like a clown, but there's nothing amusing about it when they open their mouths. Their long canine teeth are so intimidating that even leopards know to stay away from large mandrill males.

Those teeth are intended to threaten, and they can do some serious damage to anything that dares get close enough to receive a bite.

8. Hagfish


These eel-shaped terrors of the deep have some of the strangest, most terrifying chompers around: two pairs of horny, comb-shaped teeth that rest on a retractible cartilaginous plate. The teeth are perfectly designed to rip off flesh, as the slimy fish ferociously spin for leverage. They often feed by biting a hole to gain access to the innards of their prey, and then consume it from the inside-out.

9. Vampire fish

Photo: billschannel/YouTube

One look at the teeth on this fish and you can see why they're likened to vampires. The fangs that protrude from their lower lips are so long (up to 6 inches, says Nat Geo Wild) that the fish require specialized pockets in their skulls to holster them in and to prevent them from stabbing themselves.

They don't typically bite at anything that's too big to swallow, but you probably don't want to test it by dangling any body parts as lures.

Top image: A great white shark scavenging on a whale carcass in False Bay, South Africa. Credit: Fallows C, Gallagher AJ, Hammerschlag N/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some links added.]