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Do Octopuses Have Teeth? What You Need to Know

Octopuses do not have teeth, but they do have tongue-like organs called radulae with a few hundred small chitinous structures called denticles. The radulae are located in their mouths. Octopus mouths are beaks and they are similar to bird beaks. They have one beak at the base of their arms. The largest octopus beaks can fit in an adult’s palm. They have beaks to crack open the shells of clams and crabs.

Octopuses live in the dark seas, rarely making contact with humans. This means that most people don’t know much about them, such as whether they have teeth or not.

If they don’t have teeth, what do they have?

In this article, you’ll learn about the octopus’ mouth, whether they have teeth, how they eat, and more.

How Many Teeth Do Octopuses Have?

Octopuses do not have teeth. They are of the phylum Mollusca, which is characterized by lacking teeth. Octopuses have tongue-like structures called radulae which are lined with hundreds of small chitin denticles.

Octopuses do not have any teeth. They are invertebrates, so they lack internal bones, including teeth. Instead of teeth, they have a beak

Many mollusks (the phylum which contains octopuses) have an organ called a radula. Radulae are tongue-like structures coated with up to 250,000 “teeth” made out of chitin.[1]

Octopuses have radulae, although they have less than 250,000 denticles. They have one radula in their mouth with a few hundred denticles.

Although academic papers refer to the chitinous linings on radulae as “teeth”, the correct term is “denticle”. This differentiates the teeth we normally think of (like mammal teeth and reptile teeth) and the much different teeth of octopuses.

How Many Teeth Do Octopuses Have

Octopus Radula Facts

Octopuses’ teeth-like denticles are located on top of the radula (tongue). They are sharp but extremely small, between 0.02 and 0.04 inches. Octopuses have nine rows of denticles divided into five types: rachidian, first lateral, second lateral, marginal, and marginal plate.

Radulae are similar to cats’ tongues to the touch, although they have more prominent and sharper denticles. These organs are used to cut and scrape food.

The denticles face inwards. This way, they catch the chunk of food and usher it toward the esophagus.

Here are some characteristics of the radula:

  • Octopuses have one.
  • It is in the mouth.
  • It rests on the lower beak with the denticles facing downward.
  • It generally has nine rows of denticles.
  • The denticles are produced in the radular sac.
  • It helps to scrape, cut, and usher the food into the esophagus.
  • The denticles are 0.02–0.04 inches.

The Five Types of Octopus Tooths

There are five types of denticles on the radula:[2]

  1. Rachidian (1 row): The middle row, these are the widest.
  2. First lateral (2 rows): Next to the rachidian on both sides, similar in shape but slightly smaller.
  3. Second lateral (2 rows): Next to the first lateral, they are narrower and bend slightly outward.
  4. Marginal (2 rows): Next to the second lateral, the tallest denticle.
  5. Marginal plate (2 rows): The two outside rows, smallest and dullest.
The Five Types of Octopus Tooths

Do Octopuses Have Beaks?

Octopuses have beaks that function as their mouths. They are made out of chitin and cross-linked proteins and are the only solid part of the octopus’ body.

Octopus mouths are beaks. They look similar to bird beaks, especially parrots’ beaks. They are solid and incapable of chewing. 

The beaks are used like a pair of scissors: they are moved by extremely strong muscles and cut through the flesh of their prey.[3]

Here are some of the main characteristics of octopus beaks:

  • They are black.
  • They are made out of chitin and cross-linked proteins.
  • Wide at the base, gradually narrower nearing the tip.
  • Used to cut out chunks of flesh.
  • They can’t chew.[4]
  • They are solid.
  • They become less stiff nearing the base.
Do Octopuses Have Beaks
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How Many Beaks do Octopuses Have?

Octopuses have one beak. The beak has two parts, with the lower part being wider than the upper part. As octopuses lack bones, beaks are the only solid parts of their body.

Octopus Beak Facts

Beaks are at the base of the arms. They are black, solid, and similar to parrot beaks. They are used to crack open the shells of crustaceans and mollusks and to deliver paralyzing venom. Beaks vary in size, but the largest ones are about three inches long.

Octopus beaks are generally indigestible. When a predator eats an octopus, it is the only part that remains intact. 

Scientists use these beaks to determine the size of dead octopuses.[5] 

Beak PositionAt the base of the arms, facing downward
Beak AppearanceBlack, solid, two parts, looks like a parrot beak, embedded in milky-white muscles
Beak FunctionBreak open shells, tear chunks out of prey, deliver venom
Beak SizeVariable: from less than 0.1 inches to about three inches
Octopus Beak Facts
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Where Are Octopus Beaks on the Body?

Octopus beaks are located at the base of the arms (where the arms meet the mantle), facing downward. They are not always noticeable, as they are retractable.

What Do Octopus Beaks Look Like?

Although each octopus species have slightly different beaks, all generally share the following characteristics:

  • Octopus beaks are generally black.
  • They are embedded in milky-white muscles.
  • They are solid and get gradually softer at the base.
  • They look like parrot beaks.
  • They are wide at the base and narrow at the tip.
  • They have two parts
  • Lower part is wider.

What Is the Function of Octopus Beaks?

Octopus beaks evolved to fit octopuses’ diets. They are used to break open the shells of crustaceans and mollusks. They are also used to cut the flesh of their prey. 

Their scissor-like nature enables them to tear chunks out of their prey. They can’t chew so they swallow whole chunks.

Octopuses’ beaks allow them to easily consume the following animals:

  • Crabs
  • Lobsters
  • Clams
  • Fishes
  • Snails

Additionally, octopus bites are venomous. They transmit paralyzing venom through their saliva. Octopuses either bite to deliver the venom or release it in the water at their prey (like their eyes).

What Size Are Octopus Beaks?

Octopus beaks vary in size from species to species. The smallest octopus, the Octopus wolfi, has a beak of less than 0.1 inches. Even huge octopuses’ beaks can easily fit in an adult’s hand, which is about 3.8 inches in breadth.


Octopuses do not have teeth, but they have tongue-like organs called radulae. These are lined with hundreds of sharp but small chitinous denticles. They are inside the mouth and help in cutting and scraping the food.

Octopus mouths are called beaks. They are black and the only solid parts of the octopus’ body. They are at the base of the arms and are similar to parrot beaks. Octopuses use them to break the shells of crustaceans and crabs and to tear chunks out of their prey.


Can an Octopus Bite You?

Yes, octopuses can bite you, but they normally don’t. Octopuses are curious, neutral creatures and their first instinct is to flee when they sense danger. Unless you don’t harass them or don’t put them in situations where they feel backed into a corner, they won’t bite you.[7]

How Strong Are Octopus Bites?

Octopus bites are not particularly strong. Although the bigger individuals’ bites can be painful and cause visible wounds and healing, most of the species have painless bites. The danger is in their venom, but even so, only four species of octopuses have toxic enough bites to kill humans.

Do Octopuses Eat Humans?

No, octopuses do not eat humans. They tend to go for prey far smaller than them and therefore rarely get into altercations with humans. They may attack you if you harass them for a prolonged period of time, but they are unlikely to kill you.

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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