Ancient "Big Tooth" Shark Had the Mightiest Bite in History

By Eliza Strickland | August 4, 2008 6:04 pm

megalodon great white shark ancestorAn extinct ancestor of the great white shark had a powerful bite that wouldn’t just put Jaws to shame, according to a new fossil analysis by Australian researchers. The colossal force of Carcharodon megalodon – also known as Big Tooth – made even Tyrannosaurus rex look puny [Telegraph].

In the study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Zoology [subscription required], researchers took CT scans of both the skulls of great white sharks and those of the prehistoric megalodon, who swam the oceans about a million and a half years ago. They made computer models of the skulls, and then ran an analysis on the models that engineers use to determine how machinery holds up under stress.

By looking at the distribution of stress and strain on the sharks’ jaws, researchers found that the largest great whites have a bite force of up to 1.8 tonnes, three times the biting force of an African lion and 20 times harder than a human bites. Megalodon, though, is more impressive. It is predicted to bite down with a force of between 10.8 to 18.2 tonnes [BBC News]. Researchers said the giant shark’s bite also tops that of a T. rex, which gets a maximum bite of 3.1 tons; lead author Stephen Wroe says that’s “puny compared to Big Tooth” [ABC Science].

Researchers say the extinct beast may have grown to 50 feet in length, and feasted on marine mammals. Fossil evidence suggests Megalodon “made a living hunting and killing large whales by biting off their tails and flippers” [LiveScience] says biomechanist and paleontologist Wroe.

Image: flickr/ideonexus

  • cj

    The scientists also found that although shark’s jaws are comprised of elastic cartilage (as opposed to the bony jaws of most other fish), this did not greatly reduce the power of its bite. The great white is without a doubt one of the hardest biting creatures alive, possibly the hardest.


  • mike

    Curious if anyone’s has checked out the new book “Hell’s Aquarium” by Steve Alten? It’s an awesome read. It’s about the ancient prehistoric shark Megalodon, which makes the current Great White Shark look like a gold fish. I am currently reading it now. Check out the trailer below, pretty awesome:

  • scott cleaves

    If “meg” was so awesome, then why’d it go extinct? Something got the better of it. :)

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