Most Powerful Shark Bite Ever Recorded Measured by Scientists

A mako shark off the coast of New Zealand has delivered the most powerful bite of any shark ever physically measured, scientists say.

According to the Discovery Channel program Mako Nation, which aired on Thursday night as part of Shark Week, the bite was also the second most powerful of any animal on Earth.

Shark scientist Riley Elliott and underwater cameraman Andy Casagrande—the hosts of the show—recorded the record-breaking bite in the waters near Mayor Island (or Tuhua)—a dormant volcano around 20 miles off the country's northern coast and a mako shark hotspot.

To investigate the power of the shark, Elliott and Casagrande built a custom device that measures the force of the animal's bite. This was the first time that such a measurement had ever been attempted for this shark.

With the "bite-meter" attached to the end of a long rod, the pair lowered it into the water from their boat and waited for a large mako shark to approach. Eventually, one specimen spotted the device and started biting on it. At first, the bites were relatively weak, but they quickly grew in strength.

"When the shark finally gained purchase on the bite-meter, it just started going crazy," Casagrande said in the show.

Eventually, the shark managed to max out the device at a staggering measurement of 3,000 pounds of pressure—or around 13,000 newtons—according to the team.

"As it worked its way up I hear from Andy the numbers just skyrocketing and skyrocketing," Elliott said. "When you put that into newtons, which is how most animals' bite force is compared, it blew my mind."

"To give some perspective, the bull shark has a bite force of 6,000 newtons, the white shark has 10,000 newtons bite force. The strongest bite force ever measured for any animal on earth is the saltwater crocodile at 17,000 newtons," Elliott said.

Makos are famed for being the fastest sharks on Earth, capable of reaching speeds of around 35 miles per hour. However, scientists know relatively about these impressive animals.

mako shark
Mako shark takes a bite out of a swordfish in Islamorada, Florida. Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

"[It's] obviously an incredible number to discover, but I think it really reflects the fact that we know so little about the mako shark," Elliott said.

More mako sharks are found in the waters around New Zealand than anywhere else on Earth, with thousands aggregating off the country's coast every year. However, they are found in temperate waters across the globe. As well as their speed, they have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any shark, and as a result, are highly intelligent.

"To be honest, I've been underestimating these mako sharks from the start. I'm continually impressed by how fast, smart and powerful they are and the bite-force meter was literally off the charts," Casagrande said.