The 10 Strongest Bites in the Animal Kingdom

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You Don't Want to Get Bitten by These Animals

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Measuring how hard an animal bites can be a notoriously difficult undertaking: after all, very few people (even graduate students) are willing to stick their hands into a hippo's mouth, or attach electrodes to the jawbone of an irritated crocodile. Still, by observing animals in the wild, and performing computer simulations, it's possible to arrive at a more-or-less accurate number for a given species' bite force, expressed in pounds per square inch (PSI). As you peruse the following slides, bear in mind that the PSI of an adult human male is about 250—an order of magnitude less than most of the animals spotlighted here!

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Mastiff (500 PSI)

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The largest dogs in the world, mastiffs can tip the scales at over 200 pounds—and these canines have bites to match, wielding a force of 500 pounds per square inch. (Interestingly, the dog you'd expect to see on this list, the pit bull, can only muster a bite force of 250 PSI, about the same as a full-grown human.)  Fortunately, most mastiffs have gentle dispositions; you can blame their large sizes and ferocious jaws on ancient human civilizations, which bred this dog for combat and "entertainment" (such as fighting mountain lions in arenas, the equivalent of Monday Night Football 2,000 years ago).

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Spotted Hyena (1,000 PSI)

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As befitting mammals that can eat, chew and digest solid bone, spotted hyenas are equipped with massive skulls, disproportionately large trunks and forelimbs, and powerful bites that can rip through carcasses with up to 1,000 pounds of force per square inch. Logically enough, spotted hyenas can count among their ancestors the "bone-crushing dogs" of the later Cenozoic Era, such as Borophagus, relentless predators that could crush the skull of an Indricotherium as easily as a prehistoric grape—and evolutionarily speaking, spotted hyenas are not all that far removed from the mastiffs discussed in slide #2.

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Gorilla (1,000 PSI)

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Remember that scene in Peter Jackson's King Kong where our hero casually rips off a giant tree branch and eats it like a piece of beef jerky? Well, scale that down by an order of magnitude, and you have the modern African gorilla, massive enough to fight off three or four NFL defensive linemen and equipped with a sufficiently strong bite to mash the toughest fruits, nuts and tubers to gooey paste. While it's difficult to nail down their exact PSI—estimates range from 500 to 1,500—there's no doubt that gorillas have the most powerful bites in the primate kingdom, humans included.

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Polar Bear (1,200 PSI)

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All big bears (including grizzly bears and brown bears) have roughly comparable bites, but the winner by a nose—or, we should say, by a back molar—is the polar bear, which chomps down on its prey with a force of about 1,200 pounds per square inch, or over four times the power of your average Inuit. This may seem like overkill, considering that a rampaging polar bear can render its prey unconscious with a single swipe of its well-muscled paw, but it makes sense given that many animals in Arctic habitats are swathed in thick coats of fur, feathers and/or blubber.

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Jaguar (1,500 PSI)

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If you're about to get eaten by a big cat, it will probably make little difference to you whether it's a lion, a tiger, a puma, or a jaguar. But according to some sources, you'll emit your dying shriek a little bit louder if you're attacked by a jaguar: this compact, muscular cat can bite with a force of 1,500 pounds per square inch, enough to crush the skull of its unfortunate prey and penetrate all the way to its brain. A jaguar has such robust jaw muscles that it can drag the carcass of a 200-pound tapir through and out of the water, as well as high up into the branches of trees, where it digs in at leisure for its afternoon meal.

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Hippopotamus (2,000 PSI)

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Hippos may seem like gentle, whimsical animals, but any naturalist will tell you they're every bit as dangerous as lions or wolves: not only can a hippopotamus open its mouth at a 180 degree angle, but it can bite an unwary tourist completely in half with a ferocious force of 2,000 pounds per square inch. Oddly enough for an animal with such a deadly bite, the hippopotamus is a confirmed vegetarian; males use their foot-long canine and incisor teeth to duel with other males during mating season, and (presumably) to intimidate any nearby cats whose extreme hunger threatens to overwhelm their common sense.

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Saltwater Crocodile (4,000 PSI)

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"Don't worry, being eaten by a crocodile is just like going to sleep—in a blender!" That's how Homer Simpson tries to reassure Bart and Lisa during their safari to Africa, way back in the wilds of season 12. At 4,000 pounds per square inch, the saltwater crocodile of northern Africa has the strongest bite of any living animal, powerful enough to snag a zebra or antelope by the hoof and drag it kicking and bleating into the water. Oddly enough, though, the muscles the saltwater crocodile uses to open its jaws are very weak; its snout can be wired shut (by an expert, of course) with just a few rolls of duct tape!

09
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Tyrannosaurus Rex (10,000 PSI)

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Tyrannosaurus Rex has been extinct for 65 million years, but its reputation lives on. In 2012, a team of researchers in England simulated the skull and musculature of T. Rex, using modern birds and crocodiles as reference points. Computers don't lie: T. Rex was shown to have a bite force of over 10,000 pounds per square inch, enough to bite through the head and frill of an adult Triceratops or even (just possibly) penetrate the armor of a full-grown Ankylosaurus. Of course, the possibility exists that other tyrannosaurs, such as Albertosaurus, had equally formidable bites--and no one has yet performed simulations of the two largest meat-eating dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus.

10
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Deinosuchus (20,000 PSI)

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The average saltwater crocodile (see slide #8) measures about 15 feet long and weighs a little less than a ton. The late Cretaceous Deinosuchus, by contrast, measured over 30 feet long and weighed as much as 10 tons. There are no living Deinosuchus specimens to hook up to measuring equipment, but extrapolating from the saltwater crocodile--and examining the shape and orientation of this prehistoric crocodile's skull--paleontologists have arrived at a bite force of a whopping 20,000 pounds per square inch. Clearly, Deinosuchus would have been an equal match for Tyrannosaurus Rex in snout-to-snout combat, the WWE belt going to whichever reptile delivered the first bite.

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Megalodon (40,000 PSI)

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What can you say about a 50-foot-long, 50-ton prehistoric shark that preyed on equally sized prehistoric whales like Leviathan? Since Megalodon was, for all intents and purposes, a vastly scaled-up great white shark, it makes sense to extrapolate from the bite force of a great white (estimated at about 4,000 pounds per square inch) to arrive at a truly terrifying PSI of 40,000. As incomprehensibly huge as this number is, it makes perfect sense, since Megalodon's hunting style was first to methodically shear off the fins and limbs of its prey, then deliver a killing blow to the unfortunate animal's underside.