What other kind of mouthparts might an alien (intelligent or non-intelligent) have besides the typical jaw with teeth or mandibles?

To avoid being too broad a subject, let's assume the aliens need to get plant or animal or plantamal matter and digest it to get nutrients and energy. Uncommon suggestions with no real world examples especially welcome.

  • $\begingroup$ Mosquito needles? Housefly straw? $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Mar 22, 2019 at 16:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A list of all conceivable mouth variants is a tad broad. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Dec 7, 2020 at 0:56

4 Answers 4


Tongues are really versatile. Your creature could have a prehensile tongue (or tongues), or one that looks like the food of the thing your creature eats. For example, if your creature is enormous, its tongue could look like a hamburger to lure in dumb humans. ;-)

Sticky chameleon tongues are useful.

Venomous teeth are kind of obvious, to keep your meal from squirming.

Spitting poison or knock-out gas is fun too.

A light in the mouth might be nice to lure prey in a dark setting.

Instead of normal lungs that exhale and inhale, your critters could have additional organ that could quickly suck in a lot of air (or water) to pull the prey into the mouth.

And of course, no list like this would be complete without a Xenomorph's extra set of attack-jaws (from Alien).


Lampreys immediately come to mind, they bore in and suck blood but I doubt that blood would be optimal. It could spit an acid to digest or dissolve tissue snd suck up the result for food to give one option. Beaks like that of squids exist as well and have no teeth. Birds and turtles have beaks as well but I would doubt that is what you are looking for.

https://www.livescience.com/55412-whale-sharks.html According to this link whale sharks do not use their teeth in that way.

I would definitely look up baleen which some whales have and use for filter feeding. It comes on plates of keratin and is used to trap prey while the whale removes sea water.

Snails have radula which are a unique option. They use their tongue it has ridges which are often replaced.

It could swallow prey whole like a snake. Maybe it could mechanically digest prey using pads or something on a pair of arms, hands or tentacles and the mouth is reserved for making sound. This may belong in fantasy, but I will have to mention that a mouth could behave similarly to an amoeba.

  • $\begingroup$ Fish are a really good inspiration source because of all the crazy ways they eat. Remora, Dolphins, Penguins, and Jellyfish are all really neat (and right up in this alley) $\endgroup$
    – David
    Mar 22, 2019 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ I know the ocean is a place of diverse mouths. $\endgroup$
    – Echo61505
    Mar 22, 2019 at 16:43

Tongue tentacles (i.e. Grabboids) would do the trick. They bite and or wrap around prey and drag them into the mouth.

Also, take a good look at insect and arachnid mouths. There are a lot of parts there. Just check out this Wiki about Insect Mouthparts.


The mouthparts may not be directly attached to the mouth or eachother, perhaps with the different cutting tools distributed on multiple limbs which can lock together to form more familar-looking eating organs on the mouth itself


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