Yautja mandibles (also known as tusks) are one of the most recognizable features of the Predators from the movies and an important part of the Yautja anatomy. They're the sharp, bony jaws that make them look so fierce and intimidating. But did you know that there are actually different types of Yautja mandibles? Each type has its own unique features and uses, and they've evolved over time to help the Predators hunt, survive, and communicate.
Predator With A Closed Mouth
The default position of the mandibles is being closed around the Predator's mouth, especially when wearing a bio-mask. However, the Predators in the movies are often with open mouths, owing to the difficulty of making the closed-mouth effect. Starting from the third movie, the skin around the Predator's mouth became "flabby", leaving the mouth looking weird on the sides. It is understandable that the Predators open their mouths to express themselves, but it makes sense to keep it closed, leaving the mouth moist. However, the Predator's mouth does not fully close, still leaving some pink skin and teeth visible. The mandibles become crossed when closed, making the clicking sound that is often heard in the jungle.
Super Predator Mandibles
The Predator mouths open to various degrees of width, often depending on the type of Yautja or its subspecies. The Yautja subspecies with the widest mandibles are most likely the Super Predator, with specifically the Berserker Predator gaping it's mouth to an almost ridiculous degree. Compared to the regular Yautja, the Berserker's upper mandibles are almost the size of the lower ones, and their tusks are longer. One would assume that the Super Predators would have trouble closing their mouths, but closed mouthe'd individuals are seen as action figures.
Mutated Predator Mandibles
An interesting variation of the Yautja mandibles comes from the epic Fire and Stone comic series by Dark Horse. In the story, a regular Predator was infected with the Black Goo Mutagen, resulting in a giant mutated Predator that went on a killing spree. As his body was transforming rapidly, he grew twelve mandibles instead of the regular four. He used his new mandibles to bite into his fellow Predators, even resorting to cannibalism. Thankfully, this crazed hybrid was put down and no other Predators with more than four mandibles are known.
The mandibles have pointy tusks at the end of them which slowly grow over time. Like human teeth and nails, they can be become damaged or broken. It is not clear if these broken tusks grow back, but it might take a very long time. Some Predators have earned nicknames related to their broken mandibles, including the Elite Predator "Broken Tusk" Dachande and Cracked Tusk Predator from the Hive Wars. The Greyback Elder Predator from the end of Predator 2 also had a broken lower left tusk, hinting at his long hunting experience.
Not only can the tusks be broken, but a mandible can be cut off completely, often in battle or on dangerous hunts. As the mandibles have bones and blood flowing through them, this would be a painful experience, much more than just a broken tusk. Wolf Predator had his upper left mandible completely melted off by Xenomorph acid. Furthermore, the Feral Predator got his mandible pulled off by Naru who then stabbed him in the shoulder with it. This shows that the mandibles are a vulnerable part of the Predator and can come off easily, possibly never growing back.
The mandibles are a Predator trait that gets inherited to the Predaliens through the DNA reflex along with the dreadlocks. Although the Predalien dreadlocks are more controversial, having mandibles seems like a fitting feature of the Predaliens. The Predalien mandibles are long and sharp, often dripping with saliva. They allow a Predalien to "lock on" to a person's face to either head bit them, or implant them with Xenomorph embryos, as seen in Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. In addition to Predaliens, there also exist regular tusked Xenomorphs that have not gained their mandibles from Predator DNA. These tusked Xenomorphs showed up in the epic Three World War saga.
Mandibles For Communicating
The Predator mandibles play an important part in Predator language and communication. They make a clicking sound, which includes the roars, grunts, and body language that make up the Yautja communication. The mandible clicking is sometimes involuntary and a sign of Predator excitement, it is sometimes heard in the background of Predator movies. It might also be a way to intimidate their prey and make them uneasy. The Predator: Eyes of the Demon book also indicated that the Predators can control certain functions of their equipment with their mandibles while wearing the bio-mask. For example, they could switch vision modes or adjust their power level.
Mandibles For Eating
The Predators are messy eaters and the mandibles play a part in that. Preferring to eat raw meat, they devour the bloody flesh of animals with their mandibles and teeth. The mandibles help keep the food in place while also ripping off pieces of it, so it fits better in the mouth. One impediment they seem to have is that they have only 2 upper teeth, relying more on both the lower teeth and mandibles. They have a taste for beef, but many others Earth animals are good for the Yautja diet.
Mandibles For Offense
The mandibles can also be used in both defensive and offensive capabilities. If all else fails, the Predators can bite into their enemies, causing significant damage. The Predator's great strength even allows them to tear off limbs or heads. The Fugitive Predator used his mandibles to bite into an arm of a Stargazer scientist which helped him to escape their lab. Later, the Upgrade Predator descended from a tree and bit off the head of a Stargazer soldier.
Behind The Scenes
Stan Winston, the main creator of the Predator creature, initially struggled with the design of the Jungle Hunter. The Predator's mouth went through several iterations before he got a sudden suggestion from his friend, James Cameron, who had worked with him on the Terminator and Aliens. Cameron told him that he had never seen a monster with mandibles and recommend to use that aspect. Winston loved the idea and thus the iconic part of the Predator was born. Later while filming, Kevin Peter Hall wore the suit and a team of animatronics specialists moved the mandibles with remote controls.
In conclusion, the Yautja mandibles are a unique and vital part of the Predator's anatomy while being the most iconic feature of the Predators. Different types of mandibles exist, with Super Predators and Mutated Predators having the most unique ones. The mandibles also play an important role in the Predator language and communication, making a clicking sound that is used to intimidate prey and control their equipment while wearing the bio-mask. Additionally, the mandibles are used for eating and attacking, while they have pointy tusks that can be broken or cut off, making it a vulnerable part of the Predator's body.