Research

Size of lunch dictates force of crunch

Big bite may not be best bite

Nicholas Gidmark tends a research subject. Bite force varies with morsel size. If a morsel is too large or too small, the jaw muscles do not move through their optimal length and may not crush it. A middle-size morsel is just right. Credit: David Orenstein/Brown University

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.