According to a new study, the famed Tyrannosaurus rex had quite the bite. With these powerful jaws, a T. rex could demolish bones with forces equaling the weight of three small cars. The predator-scavanger could bite down with nearly 8,000 pounds of force, more than twice the bite force of the largest living crocodiles, the modern bite force kings.
Eating bones, known as extreme osteophagy in scientific communities, is not uncommon today, but it usually happens among carnivorous mammals like wolves or hyenas. Reptiles generally do not have the tooth structure to break down bone.
"It was this bone-crunching acumen that helped T. rex to more fully exploit the carcasses of large horned-dinosaurs and duck-billed hadrosaurids whose bones, rich in mineral salts and marrow, were unavailable to smaller, less equipped carnivorous dinosaurs," says Paul Gignac, assistant professor of Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology at Oklahoma State.
This joint study study between Florida State and Oklahoma State also shows the power of each individual tooth. A tyrannosaurus tooth could generate 431,000 pounds per square inch. This allowed the dinosaur to bite down repetitively on a bone like a mammal would. The splintering bones would likely sometimes explode out of the the giant reptile's mouth.
After studying birds and crocodilians, the scientists realized that it wasn't just strong jaw muscles that allowed the might beast to destroy bone. It was also how that force was transferred to the teeth itself, a metric they called tooth pressure. "Having high bite force doesn't necessarily mean an animal can puncture hide or pulverize bone, tooth pressure is the biomechanically more relevant parameter," says Florida State Professor of Biological Science Gregory Erickson. "It is like assuming a 600 horsepower engine guarantees speed. In a Ferrari, sure, but not for a dump truck."
The T. Rex's celebrity status, which began when the dinosaur first was discovered in 1905, affords it a unique place among paleontological studies. Many, like the late palentologist Robert Bakker, attribute it to that spectacular name, Tyrannosaurus, which just rolls off the tongue. This close reading of its bone-destroying abilities shows that it had the bite to live up to the hype.
Source: Florida State
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