Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Crocodiles Have Most effective Chew Ever Calculated, Hands-on Testing Show

Crocodiles may be the world's champion chompers, killing with the greatest bite force ever directly measured for living animals, a new study says. In fact, their bite forces may rival that of mighty T. rex.

Paleobiologist Gregory M. Erickson and colleagues put all 23 living crocodilian species through an unprecedented bite test. The "winners"—saltwater crocodiles—slammed their jaws shut with 3,700 pounds per square inch (psi), or 16,460 newtons, of bite force.

By contrast, you might tear into a steak with 150 to 200 psi (890 newtons). Hyenas, lions, and tigers generate around 1,000 psi (4,450 newtons).

And while a 2008 computer model estimated that a 21-foot (6.5-meter) great white shark would produce nearly 4,000 psi (17,790 newtons) of bite force, that figure hasn't been directly measured.

Erickson and colleagues did physically measure the bites of several 17-foot (5.2-meter) saltwater crocs—as well as Nile crocodiles, alligators, caimans, gharials, and other crocs, some for the first time ever.

The team spent countless hours wrestling with the reptiles at Florida's St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and getting them to bite a force transducer—a "very expensive, very durable, waterproof bathroom scale that's padded with leather."

"The testing is like dragon slaying by committee, often involving ten or more people to test a single animal," said Erickson, of Florida State University.

For every croc species, the transducer registered impressive power, suggesting that a big bite is at the heart of what it means to be a crocodilian, according to Erickson.

"That's why I think they've been so successful," he said. "They seized on a remarkable design for producing bite force and pressure to occupy ecological niches on the water's edge for 85 million years, and no one else evolved that could wrest those niches from them."

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