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Do Geese Have Teeth? That’s Interesting!

Do Geese Have Teeth? That’s Interesting!

Birds evolved from dinosaurs. When looking at the open beak of a goose, it sure looks as if they of a goose’s beak and on their tongues.

Although they look like teeth and have many of the same functions as teeth, they aren’t technically teeth, but tomia, because they are not made of the same stuff that true teeth are made of.

Tomia is made of cartilage.


Do Geese Have Teeth?

Geese have pointed ridges on the beaks and tongues called tomia that help grab food and tear it up. Although they look like teeth and act much like teeth, they are not technically teeth. These protrusions made from cartilage appear in many bird species, not just geese.


Just What Are Teeth, Anyway

Scientists classify teeth not by how they appear and what they do, but by what they are made of. Teeth, such as human teeth, are made of four materials.

Contrary to popular belief, teeth are not made of bone. Although thought to be inert, bones are filled with living tissues like blood vessels.

Bone marrow makes red blood cells for many creatures, including people. Bones are made of collagen protein and calcium phosphate.

Teeth are made of four substances. There’s the inner pulp, which has blood vessels and nerves.

When your tooth hurts, it’s the nerves in the pulp sending pain signals to your brain. Cementum keeps the root of your teeth in place.

Dentin surrounds the pulp. This dentin is a substance harder than bone, which is the reason why teeth are usually the parts of the skeleton that last the longest.

Surrounding the dentin is enamel.

What most birds, including geese, have is something that looks like teeth, but is made of cartilage, called tomia. That’s the stuff that acts as the framework for your ears and the tip of your nose.

Cartilage is strong and flexible. Some creatures like sharks, rays, and skates have skeletons of cartilage instead of bones. The cartilage is lightweight, so it helps these animals to swim faster and maneuver better.


How Geese Break Up Their Food

One of the main functions of our teeth is to cut food into much smaller bits so they are more easily digested. Geese tomia, although they can grab hold of food, they do a poor job of cutting and tearing the food up.

Mainly, geese, like all birds, swallow their food whole. If they had no way of grinding their food up, then the food would pass through them undigested.

Since a lot of their diet consists of hard foods like seeds and insects, they would be in deep trouble if they could not get at the nutrients inside of these foods.

So, how do geese grind their food up so it can be digested? They have an organ in their digestive tract called a gigerium, gastric mill, ventriculus, or gizzard.

Whatever you call it, it’s where food in a bird is ground down into digestible pieces. However, a gizzard can’t grind food all by itself.

It needs grit in order to function.

Most birds, including geese, need to eat grit. Grit is basically tiny hard things that the gizzard uses to grind food against to break it up.

Grit can consist of many materials, including tiny bits of limestone, coarse sand, and gypsum. Commercial grit for domestic geese is often made up of ground-up oyster shells and calcium-fortified sand.

Most grit is eventually dissolved by acids in the gizzard, but some grit may remain in the gizzard for the rest of a goose’s life. Interestingly enough, many dinosaurs, the ancient ancestors of geese, are thought to have had gizzards.


Can Geese Grow Real Teeth

Since all birds evolved from dinosaurs, and dinosaurs definitely had teeth, could geese ever possibly grow teeth?

The answer seems to be yes, based on experiments with chickens and the discovery of a mutant chicken that can grow reptilian teeth. The tooth-growing experiment has not been done with geese, but theoretically, it could be done on any bird species.

Although birds lost teeth about 70 to 80 million years ago, their cells still remember how to make teeth. It’s just that these genes are switched off in modern birds. 

In 2006, at the Max Plank Institute in Germany, researchers were studying how organs grow in chicken embryos. They noticed that an embryo sixteen days old had what looked like teeth on the jaw.

The teeth resembled those of an alligator or crocodile. This led to a collaboration with many universities to discover what mutated gene caused the teeth to appear.

Unfortunately, chickens born with this mutation only live a few days.

In an experiment done in 2003, chickens that had tooth-growing genes from mice grafted onto their DNA grew mousy teeth. The gene or genes that cause mouse teeth to grow in a chicken beak still has yet to be identified.

It’s not enough to just stick a gene from another creature into a chicken’s DNA. Growing teeth is more complicated.

Chickens, and other birds, would need to have other genes that help grow teeth in order to grow any kind of teeth at all.

This gene or genes would be different from the mutated gene that caused alligator-like teeth to grow on chicken embryos since it would not be a fatal mutation. That’s the theory, anyway.


Frequently Asked Questions About Geese Having Teeth


Do Swans Have Teeth?

Swans are the largest members of the geese family. Since they are geese, they have tomia. These are the tooth-like protrusions lining the edges of their beaks. They are also found on swan tongues.


Does a Goose Bite Hurt?

Bites from geese or swans will hurt. Tomia on the beak and tongue can draw blood. The bites feel like a very hard pinch. What’s even more painful is the blow from a closed beak.


What Do Geese Eat?

Geese eat various foods, depending on their species. Food includes roots, water plants, land plants like grass, grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables, insects, and small fish. Although they love to eat bread, as all picnickers know, it can make them sick. Bread is the ultimate junk food for geese – filling, but lacking in nutrition.


The Least You Need to Know

Technically, geese do not have teeth, since they are not made out of pulp, dentin, enamel, or cementum.

They do have things that look like teeth and act very much like teeth, but they are made of cartilage.

These protrusions line the edges of beaks. They also have them on their tongues. They are called tomia.