The sword of a swordfish is sharp enough to inflict significant damage, but not razor sharp. Swordfish use their swords primarily for slashing rather than stabbing.
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Main Uses of the Swordfish Sword
- Swordfish use their elongated upper jaw, commonly called a sword, for hunting and defense.
- They primarily use it to slash at schools of fish, stunning, injuring or killing them. This allows the swordfish to more easily capture injured prey that are vulnerable after being slashed.
Swordfish swipe their swords through schools of fish rather than stabbing. The slashes can inflict heavy bleeding wounds on prey. While swordfish swords are not razor sharp, they are sharp enough to defend against predators and slash at prey effectively.
Swordfish Sword Composition and Structure
- The swordfish’s sword is made of dense bone and covered with skin. It lacks scales or teeth.
- The bone is stiff and resistant to fracture, allowing it to withstand the high bending forces from slashing without breaking.
The sword bone has a unique structure and composition that gives it fracture toughness and allows it to avoid chipping when striking hard surfaces. Swordfish are able to keep their swords in prime slashing condition through an unusual lifelong bone repair process.
- In cross section, the upper jaw bone resembles a flattened metal sword. It is flattened and sharp on the edges.
Swordfish Swords Are Flexible But Strong
- The swordfish’s bill is composed of two separate elongated bones that are tightly joined together. The bones provide strength while allowing flexibility for slashing motions.
- Because the bones are so strong and flexible, the sword is unlikely to break under normal conditions. The only time a swordfish might break its bill is if it rammed into an extremely hard object.
- Even extensive loading and bending force applied to examine the sword’s structural properties did not cause breakage, demonstrating how resistant swordfish swords are to fracturing. This makes them durable tools for slashing many times throughout the swordfish’s lifespan.
|Main use||Primarily slashing to injure/weaken prey|
|Composition||Dense bone covered in skin|
|Shape||Flattened and sharpened on edges|
|Strengths||Resists fracture, flexible|
|Weaknesses||Not razor sharp, vulnerable to hard surfaces|
In summary, the swordfish sword is an effective slashing weapon shaped by evolution to serve the fish’s needs as an active predator. While dangerous, swordfish do not purposely attack humans except in rare cases. The sword allows the swordfish to become a formidable “gladiator of the ocean”.