Florida Museum of Natural History

Shark Tooth Identification Guide

Fossil Sharks In The News

Glossary of Fossil Shark Tooth-Related Terms


Apex - top

Apical - from the top


Basal - refers to the bottom

Basal margin - area where the root and crown meet


Crown - dentine portion of the tooth that is not connected to the jaw

Crown attitude
recurved - arched lingually

Cusp - a major projection of the crown

Cusplet - a small, enameloid covered projection lateral to the basal margin of the crown

Cutting edges - a sharp, thin, enameloid ridge


Dentition - all the teeth and their arrangement in the mouth (both jaws)

Directional terms -
labial (from the front), lingual (from the back), mesial (toward the symphysis), distal (toward the end of jaw)

Distal - the edge of the tooth towards the back/posterior of the mouth


Enamel - smooth, glossy tissue coating the crowns of elasmobranch teeth


Foramen - opening or hole in the root


Labial- viewed from the front

Lateral - viewed from the side, when referring to the position of a tooth, this term is used to indicate mesial and/or distal

Lateral cusplets - a small, enameloid covered projection lateral to the basal margin of the crown

Lingual - the inner surface of the tooth toward the tongue

Lobe - the mesial or distal portion of the root created by the nutrient groove

Lobate - lobe-shaped


Medial - toward the middle

Mesial - the edge of a tooth towards the front/anterior of the mouth

Multicusped - more than one cusp


Notch - a groove situated on the top of the root


Serrations - having the appearance of the toothed edge of a saw

Shoulder - narrow , enameloid covered extension of the crown onto the margin of the root lobe


Transverse groove - a deep groove transverse on the lingual root surface, transecting it into mesial and distal root lobes

Types of teeth:

Lower/Upper - teeth from the lower jaw and upper jaw

Parasymphyseal - which are found where the left and right portions of the jaw meet and are typically small

Symphyseal/Intermediate - which sit between the anterior and lateral teeth and tend to be smaller, are in the center of both the upper and lower jaws

Anterior - which are usually the largest teeth in the jaws and sit close to the midline

Lateral - which get smaller with size towards the outer edges of the jaws

Posterior/Distal - toward the end of the jaw

Fossil Sharks