A research group[1] studying the hunting ability of the great white shark has found evidence indicating that this notorious predator actually has a fairly weak bite. In several movies – including the legendary Spielberg film “Jaws” – the great white shark has been portrayed as a hunter blessed with an exceptionally strong bite, but the allegedly fierce jaw power of Carcharodon carcharias is now being questioned.

According to research leader Dr Daniel Huber of the University of Tampa in Florida, sharks actually have very weak jaws for their size and can bite through their prey mainly thanks to their extremely sharp teeth – and because they can grow to be so large.

White shark Great white shark turns our to have weak bite

Photo by Terry Goss, copyright 2006

Pound for pound, sharks don’t bite all that hard,” says Dr Huber. Compared to mammals, sharks have amazingly weak bites for their size. Lions and tigers are for instance equipped with much more jaw strength than sharks when you account for body size. According to Huber, mammals have evolved much more efficient jaw muscles.

During the study, Dr Huber and his team studied 10 different shark species. The bites of small sharks were fairly easy to measure, while large sharks had to be knocked out and subjected to mild electricity in order to stimulate their jaw muscles.

As mentioned above, sharks don’t really need strong jaws since they can grow so large and are fitted with extraordinarily sharp teeth. In addition to this, they also benefit from having very wide jaws. When they tear an animal apart, they frequently use a sawing motion.

Dr Huber hopes that their study will lead to the development of protective swim wear and other types of shark-proofing gear.

If you wish to read more, you can find the study “Is Extreme Bite Performance Associated with Extreme Morphologies in Sharks?” in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/588177?prevSearch=(shark)+AND+[journal%3A+pbz]


[1] Daniel R. Huber, Department of Biology, University of Tampa, 401 West Kennedy Boulevard, Box U, Tampa, Florida 33606;

Julien M. Claes, Marine Biology Lab (BMAR), Catholic University of Louvain, Bâtiment Kellner, niveau D-1, 3 place Croix du Sud, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium;

Jérôme Mallefet, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138;

Anthony Herrel, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerpen, Belgium

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