Mechanics of biting in great white and sandtiger sharks
Ferrara, T.L., Clausen, P., Huber, D.R., McHenry, C.R., Peddemors, V. and Wroe, S., 2011. Mechanics of biting in great white and sandtiger sharks. Journal of Biomechanics, 44(3): 430–435.
“Shark Bite” – these words illicit fear as soon as they’re heard, but we know little about the biting capabilities of different sharks and how they are adapted to their evolutionary niche.
This study used high-tech engineering methods to investigate how the jaws of two threatened shark species, the great white and grey nurse, function to maximise their efficiency.
We found that grey nurse shark jaws are adapted for rapid closure while great white shark jaws are adapted to generate maximum force. These results support the difference in tooth structure found between these two shark species (spiking versus cutting teeth, respectively) and diet (small fish versus large prey, respectively).
Additionally, for the first time, we show that the muscles in shark jaws allow high bite forces to be maintained throughout a wider range of gape angles than observed in mammals.
Finally, our data suggest that the jaws of sub-adult great whites are mechanically vulnerable when handling large prey. This may explain why many of the shark attacks off NSW are aborted after a single exploratory bite, as the great whites involved are usually juveniles who may sustain jaw injury if they persevere with the attack.
These data provide important information on better understanding sharks, their role in the ecosystem and their involvement in shark attack.