Researchers have shown how the shape of a crocodile’s snout could determine its ability to feast on certain types of prey, from large mammals to small fishes.
Led by Dr Colin McHenry and PhD student Chris Walmsley, from Monash University’s School of Biomedical Sciences, a team of researchers compared the jaw strength of different types of crocodiles when feeding on large prey. Using computer technology they subjected the jaws to the sorts of biting, shaking, and twisting loads that crocodiles use to feed on large prey. The team generated 3D images showing the strain measured on the jaws of seven diverse species of crocodile.
They found the lower jaws of short-snouted crocodiles performed well under the loads applied to mimic the feeding behaviour on large prey, but those with elongated jaws were more likely to break under the same loads, showing their limited ability to feed on large prey.
Detailed today in PLoS One, the findings contribute to the understanding of how the shape of the crocodile’s skull correlates with strength. It is the first study of its kind to investigate the mechanics that underlie the link between the shape of the lower jaw and diet.