May 27, 2017

Motor mouth: T. rex could bite with the force of three cars

19 May 2017, 07:52 | Kevin Scott

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A Triceratops pelvis bearing nearly 80 T. rex bite marks. The bracket shows a region where the carnivore repeatedly removed sections of bone

This isn't the first time scientists have dedicated research to the T-Rex's powerful bite. The jackhammer teeth allowed T. rex to crack into bones from fresh kills or scavenged corpses, a food source that other predators couldn't access.

The scientists also describe how the remains of a triceratops bear 80 bite marks attributed to Tyrannosaurus rex, with part of a bone appearing to have been removed by repetitive, localised biting - and this feeding behaviour was also included into their model. Ultimately, the researchers estimated a T.rex could deliver some 8,000 pounds of bite force on average, roughly the weight of three small cars. Due to their tooth structure, as well as bite marks found on Triceratops bones, the researchers suggest that the T-rex ate with a biting and chewing pattern, in the style of modern mammals like hyenas and wolves.

T. Rex could generate 431,000 pounds per square inch with its massive jaw muscles. A study published Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports reveals the power of the animal's bite.

"If you could bite through bone, you can get nutrients from within the bone itself", said Dr Paul M Gignac, a paleobiologist at Oklahoma State University and the lead author on the paper. They came up with a model for T-rex, which took into account bite forces but also tooth pressure.

The bite force quotient of the T-rex is far more powerful than any living animals today.

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To figure out the bite force of a long-extinct T. rex, the team created a digital T. rex jaw based off muscle features found on close modern-day relatives to dinosaurs, like birds and crocodilians.

"Having high bite force doesn't necessarily mean an animal can puncture hide or pulverize bone, tooth pressure is the biomechanically more relevant parameter", Erickson said. For example, researchers estimated in 2012 an enormous croc called Deinosuchus, which lived a few million years before T. rex and weighed even more, had a bite strength of 10,400 kg. Most of what they have to work with is stone in the shape of bone, and if they're lucky, reasonable comparisons with living creatures - sometimes looking to the present for dinosaur deets can be just as enlightening. Furthermore, previous studies on fossilized T. rex stool, also known as coprolites, show that they also enjoyed highly acidic stomach fluids, which allowed them to digest whole carcasses just like crocodiles do.

Dr Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist from the University of Edinburgh who reviewed the paper, said the ability to bite through bones made tyrannosaurs unique.

"Through incredible, almost 8,000-pound bite forces and record-breaking, 431,000 pounds per square inch tooth pressures, T. rex regularly scored, deeply punctured, and even sliced through bones", said Paul Gignac, the study's co-author. Osteophagy is nearly unheard of in reptiles; their long, conical teeth don't tend to clamp together to deliver the crushing forces needed to shatter bone.

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