Many people are already familiar with the prehistoric ferocity of the long-extinct, 60-ton Megalodon shark, but what about the unforgiving bite of the 30-pound, 2½-foot-long Mega-piranha? The Mega-piranha, or Megapiranha paranensis, which lived at the same time as the Megalodon but within the Amazon and Parana basin habitats, was a carnivorous machine weighing about the same amount as an adult Cocker Spaniel, but with a bite force that relative to its size was stronger than that of a Tyrannosaurus rex or Megalodon.
So, what made this Miocene fish’s bite so deadly? And what on Earth could it have been feeding on that would have required it to have such unforgiving chompers? Scientists set out to find the answers to these questions, and in the process they realized the piranhas we know and fear today actually have quite a bit in common with their prehistoric predecessors.
Pound For Pound, Its Bite Was Stronger Than That Of A Gator, A Shark, And Even A T. Rex
When it comes to which creature’s jaw packed the greatest punch, Mega-piranha without a doubt would take the lead. According to studies released in Scientific Reports, the prehistoric flesh-eater could land a bite with well-over 1,000 pounds of force behind it, despite being only 3 to 4 feet long and only weighing upwards of 20 pounds.
Comparatively, a Tyrannosaurus rex’s bite would have had at least 3,000 pounds of force behind it, but it’s important to note that the T. rex would have been an estimated 100 times bigger than the Mega-piranha. This means that, taking into account a ratio of its body size to bite power, the Mega-piranha had a far more powerful jaw at its disposal relative to its size.
Its Bite Force Was Equal To At Least 30 Times Its Weight, Equaling About 1,067 Pounds
Considering its relatively small length of 3 to 4 feet as compared to other aquatic creatures thriving during the Miocene Era, the Mega-piranha apparently had little trouble competing for resources. The fish had a jaw consisting of a single row of serrated teeth accompanied by ultra-powerful adductor mandibulae muscles located just past the eye and jaw on either side of its head and reaching all the way to the very front teeth in the jaw.
This impressive muscular trait is what allowed the Mega-piranha - and its modern relatives - to have a jaw powerful enough to land a bite at least 30 times more powerful than its own body mass. A bite force that powerful is equal to 1,067 pounds of pressure. With that much power and a row of razor-sharp teeth, the Mega-piranha could have easily broken through everything from soft tissue to turtle shells and bones.
It Could Weigh Up To About 20-30 Pounds
Thanks to the discovery of a fragmented piece of a fossilized premaxilla jawbone, scientists were able to identify Megapiranha paranensis as the newest member of the prehistoric piranha family. By taking the jawbone fragment and comparing it to the jaws of modern-day piranhas, scientists were able to reconstruct an approximation of what the Mega-piranha once looked like.
The result was a large, 20- to 30-pound carnivorous fish with sharp teeth that had “serrated cutting edges similar to a shark,” according to an article published by Scientific Reports. But even at 30 pounds, the extinct piranha and its bite was discovered to be far more powerful than expected.
Scientists Still Aren’t Sure Exactly What The Mega-Piranha Ate
When considering exactly why the Mega-piranha evolved to have such a powerful jaw, it is important to look at what their diet may have consisted of in order to necessitate it. According to Stephanie Crofts who studied the relationship for the University of Washington, “The Mega-piranha teeth had the same maximum strength like you saw in regular piranha, but then the patterns of stress distribution within the tooth was also similar to fish able to eat hard-prey.”
It is therefore likely that the Mega-piranha was seeking out particularly large animals. Still, no one knows exactly what their main source of nutrition would have been.