University of New South Wales researchers said, by comparison, a large African lion can produce only about 1,235 pounds of bite force.
Led by paleontologist and biomechanist Steve Wroe, the scientists used computer modeling to study the skull of an 8-foot-long male great white shark.
"Pound for pound the great whites' bite is not particularly impressive, but the sheer size of the animal means that in absolute terms it tops the scales," said Wroe.
But as powerful as great white sharks are, they pale when compared with the extinct great white shark Carcharodon megalodon -- which lived approximately 18 million years ago and might have grown to about 60 feet in length and weighed up to 100 tons -- arguably the most formidable carnivore to have ever existed on Earth, the researchers said.
Wroe and colleagues estimate the bite force of the megalodon at between 10.8 and 18.2 tons, at least 30 times that of the largest living great whites.
The research is to appear in the Journal of Zoology.