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It was one of the most fearsome predators to walk the Earth.
Now, the secrets behind the bone-crushing bite of the Tyrannosaurus rex have been revealed in a new study.
The dinosaur could break bones by biting down with forces equalling the weight of three small cars, researchers claim.
T. Rex could not only crack the biggest of bones, it could also pulverise and ingest them, absorbing marrow and minerals beyond the reach of less well-endowed competitors.
T-Rex could not only crack the biggest of bones, it could also pulverise and ingest them, absorbing marrow and minerals beyond the reach of less well-endowed competitors. Pictured is a computer simulation of its bone and muscle structure
‘The combination of impressive bite force and stout teeth set T. Rex apart,’ lead author Paul Gignac, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University, told AFP.
‘It regularly scored, deeply punctured and even sliced through bones.
The study, by Florida State University, looked at how T. rex could pulverise bones – a capacity known as extreme osteopathy.
Osteopathy is typically seen in living carnivorous mammals such as wolves and hyenas, but not reptiles because of the shape of their teeth.
Wolves and hyenas use so-called occluding teeth that fit together perfectly, top-and-bottom, a feature common in carnivorous mammals.
T. Rex lacked such dental gear, raising the question of how they managed to shatter resistant bones the size of small tree trunks.
But it seems sheer power counts for something
The researchers found that the prehistoric reptile could bite down with nearly 8,000 pounds of force.
This is more than two times greater than the bite force of the largest living crocodiles – today’s bite force champions.
At the same time, T.Rex’s long, conical teeth generated 431,000 pounds per square inch of bone-failing tooth pressures.
This allowed T-Rex to drive open cracks in bone during repetitive, mammal-like biting and causing bones to explode.
The dinosaur’s long, conical teeth, shown in these iamges, generated 431,000 pounds per square inch of bone-failing tooth pressures. This allowed T-Rex to drive open cracks in bone during repetitive, mammal-like biting and causing bones to explode
Florida State University found that T.Rex could bite down with 8,000 pounds of force. This is more than two times greater than the bite force of the largest living crocodile. At the same time, their long, conical teeth generated 431,000 pounds per square inch of tooth pressure
The maximum pressure at the tip of the beasts tooth was 28 times what is felt at the bottom of the deep-sea Mariana Trench in the western Pacific.
‘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,’ said Paul Gignac, assistant professor of Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology at Oklahoma State University Center.
The dinosaur’s tooth pressure – a new metric devised by the researchers was an astounding 30 tonnes per square centimetre
The researchers modelled how the muscles of living crocodilians, which are close relatives of dinosaurs, contribute to bite forces.
They then compared the results with birds, which are modern-day dinosaurs, and generated a model for T-Rex.
From their work on crocodilians, they realised that high bite forces were only part of the story.
To understand how the giant dinosaur consumed bone, the team also needed to understand how those forces were transmitted through the teeth, a measurement they call 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,’ Erickson said.
‘It is like assuming a 600 horsepower engine guarantees speed. In a Ferrari, sure, but not for a dump truck.’
In current day, well-known bone crunchers like spotted hyenas and grey wolves slice their way through bones with hacksaw-like molars like hacksaws.
T-Rex used a similar technique to gnaw repeatedly.
According to the Washington Post, one Triceratops pelvis found had been chewed about 80 times.
However, T-Rex also used its teeth like a hammer to fracture bone.
A Triceratops pelvis bearing nearly 80 T-rex bite marks. The bracket shows a region where the carnivore repeatedly removed sections of bone
The new study is one of several by the authors and their colleagues that now show how sophisticated feeding abilities, most like those of modern mammals and their immediate ancestors, actually first appeared in reptiles during the Age of the Dinosaurs.
Interestingly, the limit to T. Rex’s bite force was probably not muscular, but the capacity of its teeth to withstand such intense stress.
Crocodiles and T. Rex ‘are probably operating at tooth pressures that are nearing the extreme structural limits of what reptilian tooth enamel can handle,’ Gignac said.
T. Rex’s grip, in other words, may be just what is needed to fracture bones. Any more might have caused irreparable damage to the king’s pearly whites.
T-REX HAD A SIXTH SENSE
A new dinosaur dug out of the badlands of Montana has changed the face of Tyrannosaur Rex.
The Daspletosaurus horneri, or ‘Horner’s Frightful Lizard’, was almost as big as the largest carnivore ever to stalk the Earth with tiny horns and a crocodile-like snout.
The dinosaur, which lived 74 million years, had a nerve which had an evolutionary history of developing into wildly different ‘sixth senses’.
The nerve, located on its nose, helped it explore its environment and was also used during foreplay to rub up against the face of its mate.
A team of scientists led by Carthage College’s Department of Biology in Wisconsin identified a fossil as a new species of Tyrannosaur which carried out a rare form of evolution called anagenesis where one species gradually morphs into a new one.
The researchers wrote in the journal Scientific Reports: ‘In courtship, tyrannosaurids might have rubbed their sensitive faces together as a vital part of pre-copulatory play.’