Even during the holidays, it can sometimes feel like you're swimming in shark infested waters, what with constant reminders of a looming "fiscal cliff," a fatal shooting at a popular Bellevue bar and the the explosion of a Chinese fish tank that literally sent sharks everywhere.
But the sharks, well okay the piranhas, could be so much fiercer. Just take a look at a just-published paper by University of Washington doctoral student Stephanie Crofts and several other researchers.
Published Dec. 20 in the online journal Scientific Reports, the paper delves into the biting power of the mighty, prehistoric Megapiranha. While just 20 pounds or so, these fish had more powerful jaws than one of the biggest specimens that ever walked the planet, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the authors conclude.
They reached their findings by extrapolating from measurements taken on the much smaller piranha of today. A UW press release explains:
Just how does one measure the bite force of a piranha living in the wild? Well, you get out your rod and reel and go fishing. Land a specimen, then hang tight to the tail with one hand and use your other hand to support its belly while offering the fish a chance to bite the plates of a customized force gauge.
Take a look at the National Geographic video below to see this unusual fishing trip in action.
One two-and-a-half pound piranha so caught carried a bite with a force of about 72 pounds. In comparison, the scientists reason, the piranhas that swum the waters of 10 million years ago employed a bite with a force of up to 1,070 pounds.
What's more, the researchers go on, the Megapiranha had "dental weaponry" that was "capable of both slicing soft flesh and crushing hard prey." If only they were around today, we could stick them in Congress and end the fiscal cliff debate right now.
What these ancient piranha actually did with their fearsome jaws remains a mystery, however. The paper's authors note that the era in which Megapiranha lived was known for its gigantic wildlife and plants. So whatever prey these creatures set their sights on was bound to be big.