A recently released study revealed that the bite of the Tyrannosaurus rex may have been even more powerful than previously thought.
A new study shows that a T. rex was capable of chomping down food with 7,800 pounds of force from its jaws. As impressive as that is, it's nothing compared to the amount of pressure generated by the creature's teeth, which researchers estimate could have been as high as 431,000 pounds of force per square inch.
One Of A Kind
Modern carnivorous reptiles, such as crocodiles or alligators, do not have the ability to shatter bone with their teeth. In fact, researchers believe that the T. rex was unique even among dinosaurs.
"Through incredible, nearly 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.
While it might be tempting to give the T. rex's massive size sole credit for its devastating bite, Gignac said that the creature's teeth are the real stars of the show. The creature's conical teeth could grow to be several inches long and were replaced every two years.
"They were toothy," said Gignac. "For example, the upper jaw alone had more than 30 teeth. Three of these teeth (on each side) were particularly large and typically engaged the tissues of prey or scavenged carcasses first to invoke damage to bone."
Those teeth may also have compensated for the T. rex's infamously small hands.
"These dinosaurs were literally headhunters, because everything had to be done with the head," said paleontologist François Therrien. "When dealing with prey that's your size, you have to kill it quickly."
Building A Better Model
Gignac and Gregory Erikson's study is not the first one to examine the strength of a T. rex's bite, but it does have a few important innovations. It was the first study to include data regarding how much pressure the T. rex's individual teeth could exert. The team also examined living descendants of dinosaurs, such as birds and alligators, to gather more information on the T. rex's bite.
The team began by creating a 3D model that would predict the bite of the American alligator. Once they had successfully managed to predict the force of an alligator's bite, they applied that same model to a T. rex.
They based the T. rex model on a scaled replica of one of the world's most well-preserved T. rex skulls. The creature's muscular structure required a bit more theorizing and was based on a series of inferences derived from studying the muscular structure of birds and crocodiles.