Australia has a reputation for harbouring some of the world's most deadliest critters, so much so the bullet-shrugging abilities of our spiders is the stuff of legends. While snakes and arachnids may feature prominently in the media, one should not forget the humble saltwater crocodile, a creature science recently proved has the single-most powerful bite of all animals.
An 11-year study conducted by Florida State University, with help from the US National Geographic Society, sought to record pretty much anything and everything about the chomping credentials of crocodiles and alligators. In 2005, biology professor Greg Erickson, part of the group that conducted the study, thought he'd found a winner when a 3.9m US alligator delivered 1.35 tonnes of force through its mandibles.
That was until a 5.1m Australian saltwater crocodile, perhaps feeling a sense of inadequacy, cranked out 1.67 tonnes. According to ScienceDaily, as far as non-extinct animals go, that's the most powerful bite ever. In fact, the massive result has piqued the interests of the Guinness Book of World Records, which is keen to learn more.
What I want to know is how you go about measuring the bite force of, well, anything. Fortunately, ScienceDaily has an answer for us:
...Erickson and his team roped 83 adult alligators and crocodiles, strapped them down, placed a bite-force device between their back teeth and recorded the bite force. An engineering calculation was then used to estimate the force generated simultaneously by the teeth nearest the front of the jaws. The team molded the teeth with dentist's dental putty, made casts and figured out the contact areas.
My parents weren't shy when it came to explaining why crocodiles (and red-backs and white-tails) are so dangerous. Turns out, neither is Erickson:
"If you can bench-press a pickup truck, then you can escape a croc's jaws," Erickson warned. "It is a one-way street between the teeth and stomach of a large croc."