Shark Bite Strength Is a Matter of Force

posted: 04/11/12
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Shark bites are pretty intense, but whether they top the charts in terms of nature's most ferocious biting power is up for debate. Don't let that fool you, though — even if they don't turn out to have the world's strongest snapping strength, sharks can still do major damage. As soon as a shark clamps its jaws shut, it devastates the flesh of its prey with destructive sawing motions so it can tear off pieces of flesh and swallow them whole.

Recent research shows great white sharks have the meanest bite, but a new study could put tiger sharks into the lead. Daniel Huber, an author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Tampa, found that among the sharks already researched, the next most ferocious after great whites were great hammerheads, bull sharks, blacktips and horn sharks

So which factors give sharks more biting power? One is the width of the animal's head — the wider the head, the stronger the bite. Sharks with sharper teeth also tested higher on the bite-strength scale. Huber found that a great white around 24 feet (7 meters) long would have snapping power up to approximately 9,300 Newtons at the front of its jaws, and a killer 18,200 at the back — that's because the leverage is greater there.

With all that biting ability, it may seem surprising that sharks don't always wind up in first place when it comes to bite strength. But factoring in a shark's body weight changes the power equation. A huge great white might have more bite strength overall than a smaller alligator, but pound for pound, the alligator might have more bite force.

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