Humans have very strong jaws. If you’ve ever been bitten by a younger sibling, you surely know this first hand. Our strong jaws allow us to tear meat and grind tough plant material so we can eat.
But human jaws aren’t very strong when compared to the jaws of some other animals. Scientists measure how hard an animal can bite by determining how much pressure the animal applies over each square inch. This unit is called pounds per square inch, often abbreviated PSI.
Humans can produce about 70 PSI when we bite down on something, but many animals can impart much more force. We’ll talk about a few of the animals with the strongest bites in the animal kingdom below.
Nile crocodiles not only have a mouthful of teeth, but they also have exceptionally strong jaws too.
Nile crocodiles are one of the biggest reptile species in the world. Large individuals may reach 20 feet in length and weigh more than 2,000 pounds.
Nile crocodiles eat a variety of different prey species, including fish, frogs, birds, and even other crocodiles. But they often prey on very large mammals, including zebras and wildebeests. To capture such large and powerful animals, Nile crocodiles need very strong mouths.
Scientists have recorded Nile crocodiles inflicting 5,000 PSI with their mouths. This is more than enough to keep a grip on a struggling zebra, and it helps ensure that once prey is bitten, it rarely gets away.
Many other crocodilians, including the saltwater crocodile and the American alligator, also have very strong bites, but most authorities agree that the Nile Crocodile has the strongest bite of them all.
Lions may be the king of the jungle, but jaguars actually have stronger bites.
The South American jaguar is one of the most beautiful big cats in the world. Most jaguars are gold in color and they’re covered in dark spots, which help them to camouflage in their rainforest homes.
Jaguars consume a wide variety of prey species. They’ll usually feed on whatever prey species they encounter — usually small mammals and birds. But in addition to these animals, jaguars also eat deer and other large prey. Jaguars also eat heavily armored prey, such as tortoises, turtles and crocodilians. In order to do this, they must have very strong jaws.
As it turns out, jaguars can impart 2,000 PSI when biting. This is more than enough power to drive their sharp teeth through the armor-plating of turtles or other animals. It also allows them to drag prey into the trees if they wish. This way, they can eat slowly, without having to defend their meal from scavengers.
Despite being herbivores, hippopotamuses have very strong jaws.
Hippopotamuses are an unusual animal for this list. Most of the other animals in nature that have strong bites are predators, who use their strong jaws to capture prey. However, hippopotamuses don’t eat other animals – they only eat vegetation found in and around the water.
However, hippopotamuses have very strong jaws – they’ve been recorded biting with more than 1,800 PSI of force. But the question is, why have they evolved such strong jaws? You don’t need a strong set of jaws to catch and eat plants.
The answer lies in the social organization of hippopotamuses. Male hippopotamuses are very territorial, and they often maintain large sections of rivers as their homes. They’ll allow females to share their space freely, but they defend their territory from other males. Part of the way they do this is by biting their rivals.
Accordingly, hippopotamuses have evolved very strong jaws, so they can inflict maximum damage during fights. They’ll also use their strong jaws to defend themselves from predators.
Despite being close relatives of humans, gorillas have much stronger bites than we do.
Gorillas are another example of an herbivore that doesn’t use its mouth to capture prey. Instead, gorillas feed on leaves and fruit, which don’t require very strong jaws to chew or eat. However, like hippopotamuses, gorillas have evolved very strong jaws to help defend their territories. In fact, scientists have discovered that gorillas can inflict more than 1,300 PSI with their jaws.
Male gorillas typically live with a group of females and younger males. Their primary job (aside from fathering young gorillas) is to protect the group from threats. Sometimes, these threats take the form of leopards and other predators, but they are also at risk from other males, who’d like to take over their troop (the name for a group of gorillas).
And while gorillas usually fight with their arms, they may also bite each other during the struggle. Obviously, the harder an animal can bite, the more likely it is to repel a predator or threat. This means that gorillas have evolved stronger and stronger jaws over time.
Tigers are some of the largest cats in the world and they have very strong jaws too.
Tigers may not be as famous as lions, and they don’t live in complex social groups, but they’re still very impressive predators. Tigers often consume large prey, including deer and other herbivorous mammals. Sometimes, they’ll even eat animals that weigh more than they do.
Like crocodiles and jaguars, tigers need very strong jaws (not to mention big teeth) to capture and control large animals. Additionally, unlike lions, who often hunt in packs, tigers are solitary hunters. This means that they can’t rely on the help of other tigers to catch their food.
So, tigers have evolved very strong jaws to make it easier to capture prey. Scientists have recorded tigers biting with more than 1,000 PSI. This is more than enough to drive their teeth through the thick hides of deer and antelope. It also ensures that their prey won’t escape, once they’ve secured a good grip.
The animals discussed above have some of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom, but there are many other good examples too. Most sharks – especially big ones, such as great whites and tiger sharks – have very strong jaws. Hyenas and grizzly bears can also bite down very hard.
What other animals can you think of that can bite exceptionally hard? Share your examples in the comments below.