Axolotls are undoubtedly intriguing to look at. They have a range of fascinating features and characteristics. But do these unique amphibians possess teeth? And if so, could an owner be on the receiving end of a pretty nasty bite? Here is what the research has shown.
So, do axolotls have teeth? Axolotls do have teeth, which can be found on both the upper and lower jaws. They are mostly used to grasp and attach to prey, which they will proceed to eat by swallowing it whole. Axolotl teeth are not particularly sharp and are unlikely to cause any pain or break the skin of any human if they were to bite.
As an owner, it’s nice to know that our pets cannot do any serious damage.
Besides, if you own an Axolotl, chances are you are going to want to hand feed them at some point.
While it is undoubtedly not recommended frequently, nor should you ever actively look to get bitten, feeding them in this way is rewarding.
It is something most owners will hope to. Even if it’s just once to see what it is like!
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at the type of teeth Axolotls posses in further detail.
We will then look at how they use them and other important aspects of biting to be aware of!
Do Axolotls Have Sharp Teeth?
Axolotls do not have sharp teeth; instead, they are small, slender, and relatively blunt with no real jagged edges.
As such, their dentitions (arrangement of teeth) are only capable of grasping (rather than piercing), and this is their primary method of acquiring food.
So much so that an owner is unlikely to routinely see their Axolotls teeth.
Unless they were to prise the mouth open and look closely inside (which, of course, does not come recommended).
The other way would be through biting. But more on that later.
Interestingly, Axolotl teeth have been heavily researched.
This may sound strange, but they are extensively studied due to their unique regeneration and aging capabilities.
And you guessed it; their teeth regenerate too.
In fact, this research paper in Nature looking at Axolotls (Ambystoma Mexicanum is the scientific name for them, by the way) provides a fascinating insight into this regeneration ability.
And as a fellow Amphibian – these teeth are replaced continuously during their life (polyphyodonty).
How Do Axolotls Eat?
Axolotls eat their food by gripping their prey, before sucking and swallowing the food whole. As such, all food must be smaller than the size of their mouths. They do not bite or tear their prey.
An axolotl diet in the wild will primarily consist of worms, insects, and other small fish.
While this can be replicated to some extent in captivity, it’s essential that all food sources are safely sourced, ensuring they are free from parasites and are of optimal nutritional value.
Either way, axolotls are carnivorous and thrive on a meat-based diet whether this is live or dead food.
Live food is particularly enticing to an axolotl, however, the movement of the prey gives them a reason to grasp and attempt to feed. This is especially true in young axies.
They have a keen sense of smell, which they will use to locate any potential food source.
And when they do, they’ll use their teeth to prevent prey from getting away.
Worms, for instance, will wriggle. Fish, on the other hand, may attempt to dart away.
Nevertheless, axolotls are relatively persistent with their prey; but if they cannot swallow it appropriately will likely give up and let the food go.
Besides, what else can they do?
But if the food is of sufficient size, and axolotls do have relatively large and wide mouths, they’ll proceed accordingly.
And that will not come as a surprise to some.
Back to their scientific name (Ambystoma Mexicanum) – the “Ambystoma” part actually means cup-mouth!
Clues in the title really.
And they use it when they need to.
Opening their mouths widely before water and food are sucked in (along with anything else in the environment) in a kind of vacuum.
How much an axolotl will eat however, depends entirely on their age and size.
Do Axolotls Bite?
Axolotls do bite and may do so as a means of warning off an intruder or in the pursuit of food.
So for instance, an axolotl may bite at another axolotl out of territorialism or annoyance. Remember, these are solitary by nature and live their lives mostly on their own in the wild.
This is why keeping an axolotl on their own is advised unless you make arrangements accordingly. A bigger tank, housing the right genders together, housing those of a similar size and age, etc.
Otherwise, they will certainly nip at one another.
Then there is the possibility that they may bite the fingers of their owners. At least when they become accustomed to people.
And when we say bite, it’s more of a nip.
Nevertheless, it is most likely to happen during feeding time – particularly where hand feeding and without the use of any prongs or tweezers.
Fingers do, in many ways, resemble a live worm, especially if they are moving around, and axolotls have evolved to seek out such movement.
Thankfully, if an axolotl were to bite, they would not likely be able to penetrate the skin.
As mentioned above, the dental structure is not sufficient to do any real damage.
It will still be felt, though.
It’s more of a peculiar feeling than a painful one.
What To Do If An Axolotl Bites
First and foremost, the best way to avoid being bitten is to not place a hand or a finger into the tank altogether.
Preventing a bite is as easy as removing the possibility altogether.
Remember, axolotls will only likely bite at their owners in the pursuit of food. So, do not give them any reason to think your hand or finger is such.
But, let’s just assume you did want to hand feed your axolotl; how would you respond?
Well, although difficult, it is advised to stay calm.
Any swift movement could frighten or injure your axolotl altogether.
If you remain calm, your axolotl will soon to learn that you are not natural prey and will naturally release their grasp on their own accord.
Some owners even report that their axies learn their fingers in time, and with a few unsuccessful previous attempts, cease latching on to their fingers.
In the rare event that your skin was to be pierced, it does come strongly advised that you treat the small wound with an antiseptic.
Axolotls are known to carry salmonella, which you really do want to get inside the wound. Nor any of the bacteria that may be collecting or floating around the tank.
Axolotls do have teeth. But they are small, and they are not used in the same way that mammals use their teeth.
An axolotl does not use their teeth to chew or to grind food; instead, they are there to latch onto prey before they attempt to swallow them whole.
If you intend on keeping one of these neotenic salamanders, chances are you will rarely, if ever, see the teeth.
You may feel them occasionally, though, particularly if you look to hand feed.
Rest assured, a bite will not be painful. Nor is it unlikely to do any severe or lasting damage.
The only real danger is to what you could do to your axie in your shocked response.
So, if you do intend on hand feeding – be mindful of what could happen, and try to remain calm at all times.
It gets easier with time, trust me.