Comedy Wildlife: The Story behind the Picture

November 19, 2022  •  3 Comments

What is going on with the moose teeth in this image that made it to the finals of the Comedy Wildlife Awards?

Well, it's not photoshopped as some seem to think. 
(Sidenote: that wouldn't be possible anyway since the Comedy Wildlife organization checks the RAW file - the picture's "negative" - to make sure no editing or Photoshopping was done to the image)

I made this image of a big bull moose in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, where I typically spend the fall months photographing the moose mating season in September and October.

As some of you have noted, moose have no upper teeth. 

But, then what are you looking at in the moose's mouth???

So, moose do not have upper teeth, but it looks like this moose has very sharp upper and lower teeth showing!?

What’s actually showing in the image is ... a combination of lower gums and lower teeth!

In other words, what your eyes see as the ‘upper teeth’ are actually the bottoms of the lower teeth, and, what your eyes see as the lower teeth are the lower gums that rise up between the lower teeth.

Because moose have no upper teeth, and certainly no sharp ‘shark teeth’, is the whole reason I thought this image is so funny.  Since I spend much time around moose here in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone area, I always realized it was just a lucky snap in a burst of images that gave the appearance of shark teeth, hence my submission of this image into the Comedy Wildlife Awards! 

This bull moose was performing the 'Flehmen response' (read more about this behavior here) during which the bull moose curls up his lip.  As the lip curl was ending, this image shows the upper lip coming down on top of the lower teeth.

Still having trouble seeing the lower gums and lower teeth?

Here are a few close-ups of this bull moose’s lower teeth and gums that may help explain it, as well as a close-up of another bull moose's mouth.

No upper teeth.  Imagine the upper lip coming down over the lower teeth.


Lower teeth and lower gums


The Comedy Wildlife Finalist image ... 


... and a close-up.


Here's a different bull moose performing the Flehmen response.  Note the lower gums and lower teeth forming 'shark teeth' where they intersect.


Fine art print of the Comedy Wildlife Awards Finalist: find them here in my Etsy shop starting at $47!

Here's what the fine art print looks like on the wall.


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Adela Villers(non-registered)
Yes, I cried foul when I saw what I thought were upper teeth! It took your explanation of the optical illusion to unsee that. And I didn’t know moose have that little inverted triangle that looks like a carnivore nose on their upper lip. I guess I have never seen their usually droopy muzzle at that angle.
Great photos, of course. I am ordering your book for my son who is crazy about animals and has a budding interest in photography. It should be perfect, especially since he will remember you from the moose!
Jorn Vangoidtsenhoven Wildlife and Nature Photography
Thank you Linda! - Jorn
Linda Wappler(non-registered)
Such a funny picture and I loved the story of the teeth. Great job, hope you
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