Great White Wimp

This article on sharks caught my eye recently.

Sharks have wimpy bites for their size and can crunch through their prey only because they have very sharp teeth — and because they can grow to be so big…

I think for us humans, who like to spend time in the water, the operative phrase there is “crunch through their prey”. And the operative word in the phrase is “crunch”. The great white shark has about 3000¬†serrated, triangular¬†teeth, arranged in several rows. The teeth in the first two rows do the honors. When they are worn down, chipped, or fall out, the teeth in the back rows rotate into place. So, basically, no bridges, no root canals, and no crowns. That’s a dentist’s nightmare.

“Pound for pound, sharks don’t bite all that hard,” Daniel Huber of the University of Tampa in Florida, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

Huber and colleagues had trouble collecting data for their study, “due to the experimental intractability of these animals,” they wrote dryly in their report, published in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

You have to admire marine biologists when they manage to write “dryly”. But seriously, does Huber have trouble collecting data because of “experimental intractability”, or is it because there isn’t much left of the victims? Actually, according to the National Geographic

…new research finds that great whites, who are naturally curious, are “sample biting” then releasing their victims rather than preying on humans. It’s not a terribly comforting distinction, but it does indicate that humans are not actually on the great white’s menu.

Sample biting? My daughter affects this shark-like behavior whenever there is a cheese and veggie tray.

Shark

Shark

Huber and the the group at University of Tampa use novel techniques for measuring bites

They also measured the bites of small sharks such as sand sharks, and tested larger sharks by knocking them out and using electricity to stimulate the jaw muscles.

How’d you like to be simulating the jaw muscles of a shark, with electricity, and have it come out from the anesthesia a little early? That would be good on Letterman.

If I am ever attacked by nature’s greatest predator, I will be able to take some comfort in knowing that lions and tigers have more powerful jaw strength than the white death.

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