A new theory, which will probably make dinosaurs appear a bit less terrifying, states that the Tyrannosaurus rex probably had lips covering dozens of sharp, jagged teeth.

University of Toronto's Professor Robert Reisz challenged the usual picture of these creatures in the movies and pop culture, proposing that theropods like the T. rex would not have teeth sticking out when their mouths are closed.

“In popular culture, we imagine dinosaurs as more ferocious-looking, but that is not the case,” said Reisz, who presented his findings this week at the Canadian Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting.

The scientist said that while only few terrestrial animals such as wild boars maintain exposed teeth with no enamel, the crocodile is the only animal whose teeth with enamel is bared – and it is aquatic.

He proceeded to say that theropods, including the velociraptors, were land creatures whose teeth had enamels, making it highly plausible that they had lips.

Lips have a protective function, partly to enclose teeth in most conditions where they avoid drying out — something crocodiles do not need since their marine environment keeps their teeth well-hydrated.

The available evidence, he added, would suggest that none of these theropod dinosaurs should have their teeth sticking out of their massive mouths.

While scientists count on fossilized anatomy in reconstructing the appearance of dinosaurs, a lot of it is artistic license, said Caleb Brown, a paleontologist from the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada.

“You have to estimate somewhere,” he said in a Huffington Post report. “One of the big ones we don’t know about is color.”

Brown considers it an ongoing debate on whether these dinosaurs had lips or not, with one usual reason for portraying many meat-eating dinosaurs with mouths wide open and teeth all displayed is the “fierce” look of the long-gone animals.

Teeth are also dinosaur parts that paleontologists know best and are available, thus, frequently displayed, he added.

Reisz deemed it important for about 1,000 individuals studying vertebrate fossils worldwide to exchange ideas on these matters. Canada, for instance, boasts some crucial sites for understanding the evolution of vertebrates, from the late Cretaceous in Alberta to the Pleistocene period in the Arctic region.

Photo: David Merrett | Flickr

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