Although the T. rex isn’t the largest carnivorous dinosaur to have roamed Earth, a new study which used computer models to reconstruct its skull muscles reveals that his bite was the most powerful one ever of all terrestrial animals, extinct or living.
Biomechanicists at Liverpool University, UK, used laser scanners to digitize the skulls of a human, alligator, a juvenile and adult T. rex, and Allosaurus. They then made a jaw muscle computer reconstruction and performed a bite analysis. These were scaled up to the T. rex‘s skull, for a relevant comparison.
Previous studies estimated T. rex’s bite had a force of 8000 to 13,400 Newtons, however for many years these figures have been questioned considering the dinosaur weighed around six tones. The new analysis suggests that the T. rex was capable of generating a biting force of 35,000 to 57,000 newtons at its back teeth – four times bigger than past estimates and around ten times more powerful than the bite force of today’s modern alligator.
When studying the T. rex juvenille’s bite force, the researchers observed that even after skull scaling to adult model was performed, it still lagged a considerable amount behind its daddy’s biting force. This suggests that the T. rex underwent a change in feeding behaviour as it grew, leading to a non-linear jaw muscle growth.
“The power of the T. rex jaw has been a much debated topic over the years. Scientists only have the skeleton to work with, as muscle does not survive with the fossil, so we often have to rely on statistical analysis or qualitative comparisons to living animals, which differ greatly in size and shape from the giant enigmatic dinosaurs like T. rex. As these methods are somewhat indirect, it can be difficult to get an objective insight into how dinosaurs might have functioned and what they may or may not have been capable of in life,” said Dr Karl Bates, from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Musculoskeletal Biology.
The T. Rex is the most famous dinosaur in popular culture, however his fame is joined by much debate regarding his status. The T. Rex has been studied bone to bone for decades and decades, and a lot of theories have circulating around the dinosaur – whether he could run or just plod along, or most importantly whether he was a predator or a scavenger. Recent studies seem to point towards the predatory direction, and this latest bite analysis seems to add strength to the assumption.
“Our results show that the T. rex had an extremely powerful bite, making it one of the most dangerous predators to have roamed our planet. Its unique musculoskeletal system will continue to fascinate scientists for years to come,” Dr. Bates adds.
Despite its extremely powerful jaw muscles, the T. rex isn’t the most powerful bitter known to man – this honor goes to the fierce megalodon – a huge shark which could grow as large as 50 feet (16 meters) in length and weigh as much as 30 times that of the modern great white shark. Studies show that the bite force of the megalodon was three times more powerful than that of the T. rex.
The reseachers’ findings were published in the journal Biology Letters.