Published: Aug 22, 2007
While sharks instill fear in beachgoers worldwide, they instill a deep
sense of curiosity in UT assistant professor and shark expert Dan Huber.
There are still many mysteries surrounding what makes sharks
such perfect predators, so Huber’s research on sharks’ “bite force” –
their hunting performance – may offer new insights on sharks’ habits,
capabilities and evolution. The research may also lead to advances in
protective swimwear, shark-proofing equipment and a better understanding
of flexible cartilage – which forms the sharks’ whole skeletons, much
like human ears and noses.
“There’s a ton of bad data on how hard
sharks bite,” Huber said. “And the more we learn the more we can
understand these animals, educate the public, and keep people safer.”
traveled to Australia in July to study an 8-foot great white shark that
had become entangled in netting, and is now helping create a 3-D
digital recreation of the shark that should reveal the animal’s
biological mechanics. A CT scan was taken of the shark’s skull and data
from the dissection will be used to create the digital model. The
digital model will include millions of bits of information, which
together will allow a simulation of a great white’s bite at full force.
A shark’s hunting performance, Huber said, is not just based on its teeth, but on its muscles, behavior and streamlined body.
who is working with biologists at the University of New South Wales in
Sydney, Australia and the University of Newcastle in Newcastle,
Australia, is also studying similar characteristics on feeding
performance in tiger and bull sharks, which, along with the great white,
are responsible for most attacks on humans. Huber believes the great
white probably will not wind up at the top of the list of bite force.
white has the narrowest head of the three, so it has less space for jaw
muscles,” Huber said. “Consequently, we’re expecting that it will have a
lower bite force on a pound-for-pound basis.”
currently no accurate estimates of the maximum bite force of the great
white, but according to Huber, the 3-D model will provide the world’s
first accurate estimates.
But, Huber added that the great white –
due to its excellent hunting abilities – doesn’t necessarily need to
have the most powerful bite to take down prey.
“Much of the
damage inflicted by white sharks is due to their teeth, and not
necessarily to the force,” he said. Great white sharks have
approximately 3,000 serrated teeth, and often shake whatever it bites
into from side to side to initiate a sawing action.
News stories featuring Huber and his research have appeared in Bay News 9
, The Discovery Channel
, The Sydney Morning Herald
, The Australian
, The Daily Telegraph
and Australia’s version of MSN
The research is expected to be completed in a few months.