Hello! I found this piece of bone washed up on a beach in French Polynesia. It's a really strong, dense bone and not like any fish bones I have ever seen. It intrigues me that the molars seem to be twisted toward what I assume is the cheek. Also, I believe the teeth are upper teeth, since there is a projection above the sharper teeth, but I don't understand why the bone above the molars is round and smooth like a mandible. I would have expected it to look like it had broken off from the skull... I'm completely confused and really can't picture the face that went around this bone! Any help at all would be appreciated! If nothing else, can you tell me if it is a fish or mammal?
I'm not so sure. Fish in my experience tend to have peg-like teeth and do not differentiate with ?molars and ?canines. It is difficult to imagine what this is or to say whether this is an upper or lower jaw.
If it is a fish one of likely things it would have eaten to need the grinding teeth is molluscs.
On second thoughts we used to catch a fish with large grinding teeth off Shetland. Anarhichas lupus the wolffish occurs in the Atlantic but there is another species living in the northern Pacific. These powerful fish feed on crabs and molluscs hence the large "molars". they also have many sharp pointed teeth at the front of the jaw. If you look at Wikipedia for Anarhichas lupus there is a picture of the skeletal head which may conform to your sample.
Well, it doesn't look quite like that, but that really helps! Thanks! The skeletal head in the wiki is interesting because it looks like a lot of the skull is made of cartilage and the hardest bony part is around the jaw. It's hard to tell, but maybe that would explain why the fragment I have looks like upper teeth but only seems like it was attached to the skull by the triangular piece on the top front... I don't think it is a wolffish, but since you said fish don't usually have canines and molars, that got me looking for other fish with "molars", and I came across the humpnose big-eye bream (Monotaxis grandoculis). It looks closer to what I have and is probably closer to the right size, too. It's a little hard to find a picture but if you google t0242e14 (I know, random) it should bring up a pdf with drawings of the fish and its mouth. If that's not it, it's definitely close!
Oh wow, Jen! That image does look almost identical to what I have! I never expected to get this close of an ID with such a small piece of bone, but I suppose that what makes it idenitifiable is also what made me pick it up. It is unique. Thanks to everybody that has helped me with this. I think my question has been answered!