Many animals prefer food — snails, nuts, etc. — that must be cracked and crushed. Scientists have measured the maximum force of their impressive bites before, but a new study introduces a significant subtlety: bite force depends not only on the size and strength of the eater, but also the size of the eatee. That insight has important implications in the lives of predators and prey. "Everybody measures bite force as one value," said Nicholas Gidmark, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and lead author of the new study published Feb. 14, 2013, in Biology Letters. "There's a lot more nuance to it than that." The nuance comes from a well-understood phenomenon of physiology that had never before been measured in terms of a living animal's bite force: The force a muscle can exert depends on how long that muscle gets preparing for the chomp.
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