Relative to body size, bull sharks bite harder than their larger relatives. Their bite force is greater than what is required to kill and eat prey.
Research has revealed that bull sharks bite with almost 6,000N, a force that is greater than what is required to kill and eat prey. In a study published in the journal Zoology, Maria Habegger from Tampa’s University of South Florida, along with colleagues in the US and Germany, examined bite forces produced by 13 shark species and their close relatives, ranging from 1m-long ratfish to the great white shark.
"We expect strong bite force values in the larger sharks that occupy top positions in the food chain, for example, the great hammerhead, great white shark, tigers and bull sharks," said Ms Habegger. "These species usually prey upon large prey items such as dolphins, turtles and other sharks, so high bite forces are expected due to the mechanical demands of this type of prey."
"The study shows that pound per pound, bull sharks have the largest bite force value among all studied sharks," said the biologist. ”Bull sharks can bite harder than a great white shark and great hammerhead."
The study raises an intriguing question: Why do bull sharks require such a powerful bite?
It may be advantageous for young bull sharks, allowing them to eat more diverse prey earlier in their lives. Smaller bull sharks bite harder than expected for their size, but larger individuals do not.
"From our knowledge, there is no need of such massive values to break fish skin or even to puncture bone," Ms Habegger added. It is believed that a strong bite is particularly useful for hunting in murky waters that bull sharks inhabit. "In a lower visibility environment catching prey may be more difficult than in open water. So once you get a prey between your jaws, securing it is crucial to not lose your meal,” she added.