Which animals have the strongest bite?

The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has the highest bite force of any animal alive today. (Image credit: DianaLynne via Getty Images)

Tyrannosaurus rex and megalodons are recurring stars of science fiction for a reason: their bites were ferocious. But which extinct and living creatures actually exert the strongest bite force?

Bite force, according to a study published in Borders (opens in a new tab), is the force that the muscles and bones of the upper and lower jaw generate when an animal bites. Animals with strong bite forces usually have no problems clamping down on struggling prey. Some predators are even able to break through prey with particularly tough armor.

Of all the creatures alive today, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has the strongest known bite force, at 16,460 newtons (the newton measures the magnitude of force), a 2012 study in the journal PLOS One (opens in a new tab) found. By comparison, 1 newton equals about a quarter of a pound of force. Whatever ends up in the jaws of a saltwater crocodile is subjected to extreme force during its dying gasp.

Paleobiologist Gregory M. Erickson measures an alligator’s bite force. (Image credit: Photo: Gregory M. Erickson via Florida State University)

There are two contenders that can challenge – and possibly beat – the hook, but their bite forces have not been measured in a live setting because these animals are aquatic predators. If confirmed, the strongest bite force may be that of killer whale (Orcinus orca), estimated at 84,516 newtons of Dutch Shark Society (opens in a new tab)distantly followed by the bite force of a great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), of around 18,000 newtons, according to computer models used in a 2008 study published in Journal of Zoology (opens in a new tab).

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