A tooth (plural teeth) is a small, calcified, whitish structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, also use teeth for hunting or for defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are covered by gums. Teeth are not made of bone, but rather of multiple tissues of varying density and hardness.
The general structure of teeth is similar across the vertebrates, although there is considerable variation in their form and position. The teeth of mammals have deep roots, and this pattern is also found in some fish, and in crocodilians. In most teleost fish, however, the teeth are attached to the outer surface of the bone, while in lizards they are attached to the inner surface of the jaw by one side. In cartilaginous fish, such as sharks, the teeth are attached by tough ligaments to the hoops of cartilage that form the jaw.
Teeth are among the most distinctive (and long-lasting) features of mammal species. Paleontologists use teeth to identify fossil species and determine their relationships. The shape of the animal's teeth are related to its diet. For example, plant matter is hard to digest, so herbivores have many molars for chewing and grinding. Carnivores, on the other hand, need canines to kill prey and to tear meat.
The Crocodilia (or Crocodylia) are an order of large reptiles that appeared 83.5 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period (Campanian stage). They are the closest living relatives of birds, as the two groups are the only known survivors of the Archosauria. Members of the crocodilian total group, the clade Crurotarsi, appeared about 220 million years ago in the Triassic period, and exhibited a wide diversity of forms during the Mesozoic era.
The order Crocodilia includes the true crocodiles (family Crocodylidae), the alligators and caimans (family Alligatoridae) and the gharials (family Gavialidae). Although the term 'crocodiles' is sometimes used to refer to all of these, a less ambiguous vernacular term for this group is 'crocodilians'.