Animal mouths come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiniest imaginable to the biggest (and scariest) of them all. The funny thing about this topic is that there are quite a few surprisingly big animal mouths out there — but have you ever wondered which animals have the biggest mouths? I know I have!
When you think about the animal with the biggest mouth, which species come to mind? Maybe a lion, a shark, or a certain bird species?
If you’re a curious animal lover like me, read on for the top 10 biggest animal mouths on our fascinating planet:
This one is a sort of tie, but only because of several factors making it difficult to judge. Confused? Bear with me, and I’ll explain. Crocodiles and alligators are very similar, as we all know. They’re both big and scary, have gigantic mouths, and live in water — to name a few factors.
However, there are also some significant differences between these two reptiles, which makes it a little trickier to determine which, in fact, has the biggest mouth of all.
Alligators are big enough, as I’m sure you’ll agree. They grow as heavy as 1,000 pounds and can reach as long as 15 feet, which is more than enough to scare people away!
Their mouths are also huge, containing as many as 80 teeth when they’re fully mature, and well capable of tearing through flesh if they so desire. Their jaws are wider than a crocodile’s, though their snout is shorter — and their overall body mass doesn’t quite measure up.
Crocodiles, on the other hand, can reach a length of 23 feet, and their massive jaws are home to up to 100 teeth. Crocs are also more aggressive than alligators, hunt larger prey, and live in several different parts of the world, making them more widespread than their smaller relatives.
I’m pretty sure my vote will go to these guys, but considering the width of the alligator jaw compared to the croc’s bigger size and the fact that they have more teeth, what do you think?
While you’ll rarely ever see it unless you own a pet snake (or have an unfortunate meeting with one in the wild), snakes’ mouths can be incredibly deceptive.
Their neutral position makes their mouth appear almost non-existent, but don’t let that fool you: their jaws can stretch an incredible distance when they’re hungry.
Even the smallest of non-venomous snakes can open their jaw up to 4 times their body width, so imagine what the really big ones can do!
While it’s a popular myth that snakes can dislocate their jaws in order to swallow food, their stretching ability is actually attributed to their jaw anatomy.
Snake jaws consist of ligaments and tendons — unlike bone in the jaws of mammals — so they’re able to stretch quite far in order to accommodate their meals. Gigantic snakes like Anacondas can stretch their jaws wide enough to swallow prey as big as jaguars or Cayman, and Reticulated Pythons are one of the rare species big enough to swallow people. Yikes!
As such a large animal, it’s easy to deduce that hippos would also have big mouths to accommodate their size. But did you know that they actually have the largest mouth of all land animals on earth?
It’s true! A fully mature male hippo can open his mouth up to 180 degrees wide, leaving four feet of open space between his jaws. That’s a big enough space for a person to fall into, which I definitely don’t recommend!
While hippos may look adorably peaceful thanks to their slow, water-dwelling ways, they’re actually quite dangerous, and are known as aggressive animals to be avoided in their native land of Africa. Aside from their gigantic size and multi-ton body weight, their teeth — though there are only a few of them — are capable of inflicting major damage!
Their enormous bite pressure of 12,600 kPa is more than double that of a Lion’s, and they’re not afraid to use it — especially if the alpha male thinks his herd is in danger. Needless to say, it’s a good idea to keep your distance!
4. Bowhead Whale
Though it’s pretty much a given that any whale would make this list, the Bowhead whale wins the title in this competition. Of any animal — whether they dwell on land or in water — the Bowhead whale takes the number one spot of biggest mouth on the planet, and that title is well deserved!
These triangular-headed marine mammals are known for their ability to break through the thick ice in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters; something they must do to access the surface for air. Their mouths are capable of growing to an astonishing size — up to 16 feet long, eight feet wide, and 12 feet tall!
The Bowhead, formerly known as the Greenland Right whale, was re-named for its arched upper jaw, which mimics the shape of an archer’s bow. These guys stay close to icy waters at all times, migrating to the Bering Sea in the winter and feeding in the Arctic Ocean during the summer.
Apparently, they’re often accompanied by the much smaller Beluga whale, who follow them for their ice-breaking skills as a way to access the surface. Bowhead whales are typically found in pods of around six, though they’re sometimes seen in larger numbers. Just imagine how much ice they could break together with mouths that big!
5. Goblin Shark
This next contender might be known as one of the ugliest creatures around, but it’s the Goblin shark’s mouth that earned it a spot on our list.
While a quick glance might have you wondering what exactly I’m talking about, a closer look will explain everything! Not only is the goblin Shark a strange looking fish, but it can actually change the shape and size of its mouth to seize its prey.
That’s right: its jaws can extend to the length of its snout at a moment’s notice, giving it a huge hunting advantage! Am I the only one who thinks that makes it even creepier than before?
Goblin sharks reside in the dark depths of the ocean and are not easily found (thank goodness). They typically eat fish, squid, and crustaceans that dwell near the ocean floor, and they’re pretty awesome hunters.
Nature gave the Goblin shark a crafty assist for locating prey in the endless darkness down there — in the form of super sensitive organs all over its snout.
These allow it to detect the electrical signals of the creatures in its vicinity, giving it a heads up on where to go for food. That’s when the jaws come out, stretching several inches from the mouth and snapping up the unsuspecting prey. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to be a land dweller!
6. Linophryne Coronata (Blacktail Net Devil)
This little fish might only be 8 inches long, but if you bear with me, you’ll see why it more than deserves a mention on the biggest mouths list.
The Linophryne Coronata — also known as the Blacktail Net Devil — is a close relative of the Anglerfish, and a member of the so-called Bearded Sea Devil family. These guys dwell at depths anywhere from 295 to 9,000 feet in the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans.
They aren’t very well studied, but they’ve been a thorn in the net of many a fisherman unfortunate enough to traverse their home waters.
These small but mighty fish have a terrifying set of teeth to be so small (as most Anglerfish do), and the jaws that house these impressive gnashers make up over 45% of their total body composition.
While that might not seem like much since they’re so little, in comparison to their overall size, it’s pretty impressive! I mean, think about it: can you imagine having a mouth half the size of your body? I’d probably want to hide in the deep dark waters, too!
7. Tawny Frogmouth
Though he might resemble a miniature owl, the Tawny Frogmouth is a different species of bird altogether. Adorably weird looking and cleverly deceptive, you wouldn’t know he was hiding an abnormally large mouth under his strangely arranged plumage unless you got lucky.
But in order to dine on his preferred diet of fish, amphibians, and the like, this little bird like this has to make up for his small stature somehow!
Tawny Frogmouths are not large birds, only growing about nine to 21 inches in length. Their frog-like mouths, however, are extra wide and triangle-shaped, with a sharply hooked beak for piercing their prey before flying off with it just in time for dinner.
They’re native to areas such as Tasmania and Australia, where they love to hang around in the abundance of Eucalyptus trees, waiting for their next meal to make the wrong move. In spite of their predatory nature, I think they’re downright adorable!
This one may come as no surprise — after all, everyone knows about the extraordinary gullet of the pelican. But did you know that there are seven distinct species of these dinosaur-like birds, and that the largest recorded pelican beak measured 19 inches long?
Their beaks aren’t the only star of the pelican show, though: a pelican’s massive pouch can hold up to three gallons of water at a time. They drop most of this off before consuming their catch, however, as their stomachs are only capable of holding about half that much.
Pelicans are quite common in my part of the world, and they always remind me of Pteranodons when they fly over in their flocks. Turns out I’m not far off, either: the pelican family dates back to the Eocene period, which was about 40 million years ago!
They’re also experts at herding fish onto shallower waters to make them easier to catch, which is what they’re doing when you see them floating on the surface of the water in groups. Turns out they’re not just taking a breather from hunting after all!
A sight to behold if you should ever be so honored, the lion’s regal stature and gliding gait are beyond compare. However, this big cat didn’t make the list for his good looks and expert hunting skills!
The lion holds the title of biggest jaws throughout the feline family, which is one of the reasons he’s so formidable. Lions can stretch their jaws up to 11 inches wide, and with all those razor-sharp teeth they have, it’s no wonder they can do so much damage!
The bite force of a lion’s jaw is actually not the strongest of all cats — that award goes to the jaguar — but theirs is nothing to scoff at, either. It’s said they can exert between 650 and 1,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) in a single bite, which is definitely not something you’d want to mess with! Combine that with the sheer size and strength behind this royal feline, and you can see why they call him the king!
10. Whale Shark
My personal favorite of all the shark species, our final contender is the gentle giant of the sea. The whale shark is not actually a relative of the whale but is named this due to its extra-large size.
These slow-moving, extraordinary looking fish are amazing to look at: their tell-tale, shark-like bodies are covered in white spots against a grey background, and despite their giant size, they have the ability to move quite gracefully throughout the water.
They feed on tiny fish, shrimp, and other small ocean creatures, as they have tiny teeth that prevent them from eating larger prey.
The mouth of a whale shark is around four feet wide, which allows them to eat large amounts of food in a single feeding.
They need to keep their energy up after all — you would, too, if you were that big! Whale sharks can live up to 150 years in some cases, though sadly, many don’t survive that long. It doesn’t make them any less impressive, though!