Gophers are fossorial (living underground) rodents that live across North and Central America. Aside from their fur-lined cheek pouches, the gopher’s yellowish large front teeth are one of their most noticeable features.
One might think that a small rodent wouldn’t need sharp teeth and a powerful jaw, but that’s not the case for the gopher. Its teeth and jaw are what allow it to dig so effectively, defend itself from predators, and survive on a vegetarian diet.
So what else can we learn about the gopher’s teeth? Join Floofmania as we take a closer look!
What Kind Of Teeth Do Gophers Have?
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There are five teeth in each half of the jaw of an adult pocket gopher, including an incisor, a 4th premolar, and three molars. So, if you’re doing the math correctly, gophers have 20 teeth all in all.
Their four sharp and chisel-like incisors are rootless and continuously grow. In contrast to the large premolars, which have a figure-8 shape, molars are smaller and ring-shaped. Considering that their premolars and molars work together as one unit and tend to have similar structures, they are commonly referred to as “cheek teeth.”
Gophers are considered to be rodents, which explains why they are monophyodonts (like all rodents, they develop only one set of teeth during their lifetime).
And for those of you who are wondering why their front teeth are yellowish or brownish in color, that is because the surface of their four large incisors is coated with pigmented enamel, which makes them really strong.
Do Gophers Have Canine Teeth?
Canine teeth are found in nearly all mammals except for rodents, such as rabbits, pikas, and pocket gophers. In other words, gophers, which are rodents, don’t have canine teeth. Rodents don’t eat meat and have no need for teeth that can “rip” muscle tissue, the same way as say, a wolf, a tiger, or a human.
Due to their lack of canine teeth, they have a long toothless space between their incisors and premolars called diastema (a gap between teeth). And because of this gap, there’s more space in their mouths and they are able to gnaw with their incisors more easily.
Are Gopher Teeth Sharp?
Absolutely! Gophers have very sharp teeth.
Their chisel-shaped front teeth and claws help them excavate the soil when digging and building their tunnel systems.
The sharpness of their teeth also comes in handy when in tough times. Gophers can use their teeth when defending themselves or their territory. Combining its bite force and its sharp teeth will definitely do some damage to even the most ferocious predator.
First and foremost, however, pocket gophers use their sharp incisors when eating. They mostly eat roots, which can be hard and tough, and getting through these demands a lot of their teeth.
Do The Gopher’s Incisors Keep Growing?
Gophers have massive and rootless incisors that keep growing. These incisors started developing when they were still babies, and continue to grow throughout their lives. If they lose a tooth, however, it will never be replaced.
Their incisors protrude out from their mouth even when they’re closed. These incisors have essential functions, which are vital to their survival, so the gopher needs to constantly gnaw in order to wear the teeth and maintain a suitable length and sharpness.
How Fast Do Gophers’ Teeth Grow?
Just like all rodents, gophers’ teeth are constantly growing throughout their 1 to 3 years of average lifespan in the wild. They can grow up to 9 to 14 inches (23 cm- 35 cm) within just one year. This is why gophers need to continuously gnaw in order to grind their teeth and trim them to their proper length.
Fun fact: Gophers actually do a lot of chewing since, on average, one gopher can chow down 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of food per day. The gopher can also consume food that is approximately equal to their body weight each day (2.6 ounces or 75 grams) during excessive activities. It just shows what kind of jaw power they have.
How Do Gophers Use Their Teeth?
The gopher’s teeth are perfectly adapted to their burrowing lifestyle and vegetarian diet. Their incisors are continuously growing throughout their lives, and they use them to bite bigger portions of their food, pick up materials for their burrows, dig, and defend their territories.
And thanks to their flattened molars and premolars, it’s easy for them to munch on that tasty vegetation.
Do Gophers Use Their Teeth For Digging?
Gophers are fossorial rodents that spend most of their lives underground, continuously digging and creating labyrinths of tunnels just below the ground.
Their bodies are built and well-adapted to their burrowing lifestyle. Gophers excavate the ground using their muscular forearms equipped with sharp claws along with their teeth (mainly, their front sharp incisors).
Aside from using their teeth when digging, they also use their yellowish gnawing teeth to loosen up the soil or break up hard materials.
Fun fact: Because of gophers’ excessive digging, their tunnel systems can cover an area as big as 200 to 2,000 square feet.
Do Gophers Bite Humans or Predators?
Yes. Gophers bite when they are in stressful situations.
In addition to their excessive digging activities and eating their favorite food, gophers use their sharp teeth to defend themselves against predators like snakes, weasels, coyotes, owls, hawks, or even humans.
Gophers spend most of their time underground, so seeing them or getting bitten by one is quite rare. And as the saying goes: prevention is better than cure; it is better to keep your distance from them since they could possibly carry diseases.
These small critters have powerful jaws and can exert immense pressure with their bite, which can reach up to 18,000 pounds per square inch. Compared to humans, that has an average bite force of 162 pounds per square inch. It’s not something you would like to experience, and they would surely do some damage to whoever they bite.
Gophers are territorial and solitary creatures, so if they face a threat, they may bite to protect themselves and their territories.