Geese do not have teeth, but they do have razor-sharp, hardened pieces of cartilage on their beaks and tongues called tomia. These special teeth-like features work just like regular teeth, but lack any enamel.
In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating (and terrifying) world of goose teeth, learn how they compare to human teeth, and learn how they use their teeth in the wild.
Do Geese Have Teeth?
Although many close-up photos of geese appear to show sharp teeth on their beaks and tongues, these are actually not teeth at all, but solid, sharp bits of cartilage called tomia.
Tomia are functionally identical to regular teeth and geese use them to rip, grip, and cut their food, but they are made from the same strong cartilage material that their beaks are made from, instead of enamel like regular teeth.
These sharp and pointy tomia line the entire inner edge of goose beaks, allowing them to tear and grab mouthfuls of grass and other plants.
Goose Teeth (Tomia) vs Human Teeth
Although geese teeth are functionally similar to human teeth, there are several important differences in the number, positioning, and makeup of tomia that distinguish them from human teeth.
|Geese Teeth (Tomia)||Human Teeth|
|Made From||Solid Cartilage||Enamel, Dentin, Pulp|
|Number||Hundreds (Unspecified)||Exactly 32|
|Position in Mouth||Lining Beak and Tongue||Upper and Lower Gums|
|Used For||Ripping (Mostly Plants)||Grinding, Chewing, Tearing (Plants and Meat)|
|Growth||Can be regrown||Adult Teeth do not Regrow|
Why Do Geese Need Teeth?
Geese need teeth on their beaks and tongues because without them, their beaks would be smooth and it would be difficult for them to grip grass and aquatic plants that makes up the majority of their diet.
Although some geese species like Canada geese are well-known for being quite aggressive, all geese are mostly herbivores and rely on grasses, sedges, and aquatic plants to sustain themselves.
Read More: Why Are Geese So Aggressive?
Unlike humans, geese don’t tend to use their teeth for tearing food apart into small chunks. Instead, their tomia are much better suited to simply grabbing at and gripping on to grass and vegetation and bringing it back into their beak so they can swallow it.
Like most birds, geese have a very fast digestive system. Geese sometimes swallow small stones and pebbles to help break up their food and aid with digestion.
Read More: Do Geese Eat Fish?
What Are Geese Teeth Like?
The tomia found on geese beaks and tongues (sometimes erroneously referred to as geese teeth) are small, sharp, pointy extrusions of cartilage, used for ripping and gripping grasses and other vegetation.
Let’s take a look at some features of geese teeth in more detail…
Geese teeth are extremely sharp and pointy. Although this sounds like it might be useful for attacking or defending, geese simply use their sharp teeth for gripping onto grass and slippery aquatic plants.
Unlike human teeth which have a hard outer shell and a soft core, geese teeth are solid all the way through. Each individual tomium is made from the same type of cartilage that a goose’s beak is made from.
3. Constantly Growing
Unlike human teeth which have a maximum possible number (20 milk teeth and 32 adult teeth), geese can regrow their tomia as many times as they want.
In fact, just like human nails (which are also made from hard keratinous cartilage), geese beaks and tomia are constantly growing.
Do Geese Have Teeth on their Tongues?
Geese don’t really have teeth in the same way that we do, they have small, sharp formations of cartilage, known as tomia. Geese have these tomia along the inside of their beak as well as along the outer edges of their tongues.
These tomia are used for adding extra grip when they are ripping up grass and aquatic plants, and help them keep their meal inside their beaks which would be difficult without them.
Do Any Birds Have Teeth?
No modern birds have true teeth, but some of them have rows of sharp cartilage called tomia instead. Birds are descended from dinosaurs that did have real teeth, but over time they evolved beaks instead.
Though the common ancestors of today’s birds had real teeth 70 million years ago, modern birds have lost this feature in favor of strong beaks. Some birds like geese evolved to have rows of tomia to replace some of the functionality of teeth while still keeping their beaks.
Over time, ancient birds evolved to lose their teeth and develop beaks instead. Some birds developed spiked beaks known as pseudoteeth, while others (like modern geese) developed smooth beaks with rows of keratinous tomia.
In modern times, scientists have discovered a rare mutation in Talpid chickens, resulting in them being born with true teeth. This proves the genetic link between modern chickens and ancient dinosaurs.
Unfortunately, the mutation prevents the chickens from being able to eat properly and they usually don’t last more than a few days.
Read More: Are Geese Considered Mammals?
Are Geese Teeth Dangerous?
If you get too close to an aggressive goose, it’s entirely possible that they will peck at you to try to get you to leave, but their pecks generally don’t pose any serious risk to humans.
While geese aren’t typically too dangerous, their pointy tooth-like tomia are sharp enough to break human skin and a strong peck from a goose could easily cause bruising and a little bleeding.
Like most wild animals, geese are only usually aggressive if you threaten them or stray too close to their nesting site. The best thing to do if you come across an aggressive goose is to leave them alone.
Geese don’t have true teeth, but they do have sharp, tooth-like cartilage on their beaks and tongues that are functionally very similar to teeth.
These geese teeth are called tomia, and are made from keratinous cartilage, the same material as their beaks. Their teeth are sharp, pointed, and are constantly growing.
Although geese teeth can look menacing, geese are mostly herbivores and only use their teeth for gripping slippery aquatic plants and grasses.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.