AskDefine | Define carnassial

Dictionary Definition

carnassial adj : (of a tooth) adapted for shearing flesh; "the carnassial teeth of carnivores"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. One of the teeth used by a carnivore for shearing flesh, being the last upper premolar and the first lower molar.

Extensive Definition

Carnassials are large teeth found in many carnivorous mammals, used for shearing flesh and bone in a scissor or shear-like way. In the Carnivora, the carnassials are the modified last upper premolar and the first lower molar, but in the prehistoric creodonts, the carnassials were further back in the jaw — first upper and second lower or second upper and third lower molars.
Carnassials are the defining characteristic of the Carnivora order; that is, they are the one thing that all of the animals within the order have in common. Mountainously large and pointy, the carnassial teeth are used to shear tough, maybe frozen meats and crush bones. Devastation of the carnassial teeth in a wild carnivore (e.g. wolves, lions) may result in the death of the individual due to starvation or incompetence.
carnassial in Catalan: Carnassiera
carnassial in Min Nan: Carnassial
carnassial in French: Carnassière (dent)
carnassial in Icelandic: Ránjaxl
carnassial in Ukrainian: Хижі зуби
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