A Wilder View: These animals pack one heck of a bite

Posted at 11:03 AM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 15:09:26-05

MISSOULA - Are you ready to sink your teeth into some fascinating facts about animal bite force?

Well, hold onto your hats — or should we say, teeth — because we're about to take a wild ride through the world of animal chomping power.

A bite can really pack a punch, whether they drip with venom, slice like knives — or from sheer force.

An animal's bite force is determined by its jaw muscles, jawbone, and teeth surface area.

But that's not all. It also depends on the size of their dinner!

That's right, the force in a muscle depends on how much it's stretched, so an animal's bite force depends on the size of what it's biting.

Bite force has radically changed over time. Think of it as a game of who's got the strongest bite.

Imagine a world where animals are competing to be the top predator.

The ones with the strongest bite force survive and pass on their traits to their offspring.

This process repeats itself, leading to accelerated changes in bite force across multiple species.

But wait, it gets even more interesting!

Using the latest technology, we can now track these changes through time and see how species have adapted to their specific environments.

That's right, their bite force has evolved to help them hunt and feed more effectively.

So, how do we determine which species had the most impressive bite force evolution?

It's all about crunching the numbers and looking at the rate of change in a phylogenetic context.

Researchers account for size and the amount of time that has passed to really see which species had that extra oomph in their bite.

In order for scientists to measure bite force, it's all in the pounds per square inch (PSI).

Or more accurately, pound-force per square inch, which is the pressure from a one-pound force applied to an area of one square inch.

Because you're chomping at the bit to know the animals with the strongest bites let’s break it down with the top five.

According to the BBC, coming in at #5 are jaguars with a bite force at 1,500 PSI. They use this strength to be able to crush the shells of turtles and tortoises.

At number 4 are hippos. The semi-aquatic animals have a 1,800 PSI bite force. Uniquely this bite force evolved to fight off predators.

Number 3 is the American Alligator at 2,125 PSI. Redirected that’s enough power to lift a small truck! They use that bite for a little bit of everything feasting on fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.

Those dinosaurs that have walked the earth for millions of years continue to pack the biggest punch at #2 with the largest living reptile — Saltwater Crocodiles — at 3,700 PSI.

Finally, is the king which is pushing bite force to extremes. At #1 we have Nile Crocodiles with a whopping 5,000 PSI bite.

A person’s bite strength clocks in on average at just 162 PSI which means the supreme force of Nile Crocodiles is 30 times stronger than ours!

Talk about a powerful bite.

This got us thinking about why Great White Sharks aren’t on that list — and it’s because of a technicality.

The notorious jaws of Great White Sharks are widely feared, yet poorly understood.

Neither its bite force nor how such force might be delivered have ever been tested in the field.

To combat this a publication in the Journal of Zoology digitally reconstructed the jaws of Great White Sharks to estimate maximum bite force and found they have a force just over 4,000 PSI.

That would put them at number two on our list.

So, next time you're enjoying a burger or chomping on a carrot, remember that you're exerting a little bit of bite force yourself.

But don't worry, you're not alone. Even the fiercest predators in the animal kingdom need a strong bite to sink their teeth into their next meal.