Sharks are essential top predators in marine ecosystems that are ecologically, economically, and culturally important. Their predatory success relies upon the unique anatomy of their jaws, which produce extremely high bite forces while withstanding damaging tissue stresses. Large sharks, such as white, tiger, and bull sharks alter their diets during development, with young sharks predominantly pursuing fish, while adults preferentially target larger, more energy-dense prey. This preference requires extreme bite force capacity, which develops during ontogeny from juveniles to full-size adults (4–6 meter length). It is currently unknown whether the increase in bite force is due to increases in head size and muscles, or whether additional maturational factors are involved. Previous studies of bite force scaling relative to body size identified an isometric relationship across species, suggesting that large sharks produce less bite force than expected for their size. However, these findings contradict previous research on blacktip sharks, which exhibit positive allometry of bite force and body size. To better understand bite force scaling within and between species during ontogeny and its implications for the ecological role of large sharks, in-depth studies on jaw feeding mechanics are required. The Shark Feeding Project will study bite force scaling and jaw mechanics during ontogeny between and within 9 shark species (blacktip shark, dusky whaler, sandbar shark, tiger shark, bull shark, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, tiger shark, white shark). Techniques Cadaveric dissections, muscle physiological cross-sectional area analyses, optical microscopy, cryo-electron microscopy, 3D virtual reconstruction of CT scans and synchrotron data, finite element modelling, and theoretical mathematical models.
feeding mechanics, shark jaws, functional anatomy, Department of Anatomy & Developmental Biology
Masters by research
Top-up scholarship funding available
Biomedicine Discovery Institute