Differences in the physical and behavioral attributes of prey are likely to impose disparate demands of force and speed on the jaws of a predator. Because of biomechanical trade-offs between force and speed, this presents an interesting conundrum for predators of diverse prey types. Loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) are medium-sized (∼50 g) passeriform birds that dispatch and feed on a variety of arthropod and vertebrate prey, primarily using their beaks. We used high-speed video of shrikes biting a force transducer in lateral view to obtain corresponding measurements of bite force, upper and lower bill linear and angular displacements, and velocities. Our results show that upper bill depression (about the craniofacial hinge) is more highly correlated with bite force, whereas lower bill elevation is more highly correlated with jaw-closing velocity. These results suggest that the upper and lower jaws might play different roles for generating force and speed (respectively) in these and perhaps other birds as well. We hypothesize that a division of labor between the jaws may allow shrikes to capitalize on elements of force and speed without compromising performance. As expected on theoretical grounds, bite force trades-off against jaw-closing velocity during the act of biting, although peak bite force and jaw-closing velocity across individual shrikes show no clear signs of a force–velocity trade-off. As a result, shrikes appear to bite with jaw-closing velocities and forces that maximize biting power, which may be selectively advantageous for predators of diverse prey that require both jaw-closing force and speed.

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