Ancient Megapiranha Had Extremely Powerful Bite

Posted on December 27, 2012

Apex Predator Bite Force Quotients

Scientists say the ancient Megapiranha paranensis delivered a bite with a more powerful bite force quotient than prehistoric whale-eating sharks and Tyrannosaurus rex. The above image shows a comparison of anterior bite forces among apex fish predators using calculated Bite Force Quotients (BFQ). You can see a larger version of the image here in Nature.

Stephanie Crofts, a University of Washington doctoral student in biology and co-author of the research paper, says Megapiranha had teeth capable of shearing through soft tissue, while also being able to pierce thick shells and crack bones.

The scientists calculate that Megapiranha paranensis, which weighed about 22 pounds, could have had a bite force anywhere from 1,240 to 4,750 newtons - or 280 to 1,070 pounds - and possibly more. This estimate is based on the biting force of Earth's largest piranha living today. T. rex slammed its jaws shut with 13,400 newtons, or 3,000 pounds of force, but this is nowhere near 30 times its body weight.

Crofts says in a release, "If our calculations are correct, Megapiranha was probably a bone-crushing predator taking bites of anything and everything."

Here is a related video showing Justin Grubich, with the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and lead author of the paper, measuring the bite force of an angry piranha in the wild. Take a look:

Photo: Justin Grubich, et al/MU


More from Science Space & Robots