One of the viperfish's (genus Chauliodus) most unique traits is the transparent, needle-like teeth. Some other abyssopelagic fish (e.g. certain angler fish) have similar teeth. I'm curious as to what these teeth are actually made of. They clearly aren't made of bone, and from what I can tell from various fish skeletons, they decay fairly quickly with the rest of the fish.


They are not unique

The are made of enamel and dentine just like ours, Even the enamel in human teeth is translucent. Note viper fish are tiny so their teeth are likewise very small, so they can look transparent just by being translucent an small. Hydroxyapatite, the mineral enamel and dentine are made of is translucent. the difference is in the crystal structure,(teeth or often porous which leads to more scattering and less transparency similar to why dry paper is white and wet paper is translucent (also true of teeth)). Impurities or more precisely what else is present in the enamel and dentine are present has an effect as well, as teeth are not just hydroxyapatite.

Source for the composition of teeth.

source for the translucency and microstructure of teeth

Source discussing how translucency changes with mineralization in cow teeth.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer would be improved if it contained a citation to anything having to do with the viperfish or a discussion of the translucency of enamel in particular crystal alignments. In other words, I fear that providing a citation implies that the information in the rest of your answer is found in that citation, which it is not. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 27 '18 at 18:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Viperfish are not alone in having transparent teeth is is very common, but something on transparency and crystalography is a good idea. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 27 '18 at 20:48

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