While Tyrannosaurus rex may have been laughed at for its small, wimpy arms, its massive jaws and teeth made up for them. Now, paleontologists have worked out just how much force came with its bite — and it’s nothing to laugh at!
According to a new study, the giant Tyrannosaurus rex pulverized bones by biting down with forces equaling the weight of three small cars, while simultaneously generating world record tooth pressures. T. rex has always been recognized as a formidable creature; however, with the new data, it’s now clear that the giant carnivore bit harder than experts had thought.
Paleontologist François Therrien told The Washington Post that T. rex was far from the average dinosaur, saying:
“If you look at T. rex, it’s a total anomaly compared to all other meat-eating dinosaurs.”
T. rex could pulverize bones, which is known as extreme osteophagy. It is typically seen in living carnivorous mammals such as wolves and hyenas, although reptiles whose teeth do not allow for chewing up bones are unable too.
Florida State University Professor of Biological Science Gregory Erickson and Paul Gignac, assistant professor of Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, published their findings in Scientific Reports.
What was found is that the prehistoric reptile could crush its prey with a jaw-dropping 7,800 pounds of force. This is more than twice the bite force of the largest living crocodiles, which are today’s bite force titleholders.
And that’s not all; their long, conical teeth could produce an astonishing 431,000 pounds per square inch (195,498 kg per square inch) of tooth pressure. Erickson explained in a statement:
“Having high bite force doesn’t necessarily mean an animal can puncture hide or pulverize bone; tooth pressure is the biomechanically more relevant parameter.
“It is like assuming a 600 horsepower engine guarantees speed. In a Ferrari, sure, but not for a dump truck.”
Having both of these pressures allowed T. rex to drive open cracks in bone during repetitive, mammal-like biting, and produce high-pressure fracture arcades, which would have led to catastrophic explosions of some bones.
Gignac said in a statement:
“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.”
Using their extensive experience testing and modeling how the musculature of living crocodilians (the closest relatives of dinosaurs) contribute to bite forces, and then comparing the results with birds (the modern-day dinosaurs), they were able to generate a model for T. rex.
Some may be surprised with the results, as the overall force estimates are lower than other researchers have predicted. Erickson believes that his numbers are conservative; however, they are more accurate, as they’re based on scaling forces up from the muscles of crocodiles, a close living relative.
Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!