Video: Sharks Chew Off More Than They Can Bite

Jennifer covers palaeontology, evolutionary biology, and science policy from the UK and Canada.

Credit: Footage courtesy of D. Lowry, M. Matott, and D. Huber

Teenage great white sharks might look all grown up, but they don't have the awesome bite of a fully grown adult, researchers report online today in the Journal of Biomechanics. The team built a computer model based on measurements taken of the head of a young great white shark and its cousin, the sand tiger shark (seen here chomping down on a bait fish). Based on the structure of the sharks' cartilage and muscle, the model indicates that the jaws of young great whites haven't fully stiffened. This means that, although their gape is wide enough, the sharks can't feast on the flesh of seals and other large mammals without damaging their jaws. The researchers hope the work helps conservation biologists better understand the sharks' feeding behavior and protect their prey species.

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