T. rex’s superjaw

21 05 2007

It really is strange when something you’re thinking about turns up in the news. On the way into work this morning, I was thinking about how robust a carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex was; how much bone went into its massive head, making it ideal to be a bonecrusher. There were other predatory dinosaurs of comparable (even larger) size, but their skulls were not the same, seemingly adapted more to shearing, slicing, or spearing than cracking bone. Comparing the skull of Carcharadontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus in my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder how the lifestyles of these two large predators differed, wondering if Tyrannosaurus was the ecological analogue to the extant spotted hyena (able to take down some prey on its own, but more known for its ability to make the most of carcasses and crush bone).

When I made it into work and did my morning round of the blogs, I came across this article (via a link on A Blog Around the Clock), on the very topic occupying my mind earlier. Indeed, according to some new research done by Dr. Eric Snively, Tyrannosaurus had fused, arched nasal bones that would help prevent the skull from splitting or incurring damage as the mighty dinosaur crunched its prey. Such a powerful bite would have been devastating to anything Tyrannosaurus attempted to hunt and kill, but would also allow the predator to make the most of carcasses found in its habitat, such strength being of advantage to the dinosaur whether it was hunting or scavenging. Other predatory dinosaurs seem to lack the fusion of bone that makes Tyrannosaurus so formidable, and so the tyrannosaurids as a group seem to have become specially adapted to have immensely powerful jaws.




2 responses

21 05 2007
nick brooks


18 10 2007
Were Woofie

Quite an interesting post there.

If one looks, there are certain other indicators as well. The jaws of T rex are shorter than other mega meat eaters. This, while having a heavier construction, allow for tremendous leverage on the “canine” teeth. This indicates that T rex was designed to really bite. The super stout “peglike” teeth are perfectly designed to do two things. First, they Penetrate through bone and flesh easily while not breaking when driven by those massive powerful jaws. Second, in curving inward they take a tremendous grip on whatever is being bitten while being strong enough to survive side strains, shocks and pulling without breaking. Once T rex bit down and locked those jaws, whatever was in that mouth was not leaving. That would be a benefit to scavenging of course, being able to rip out huge chunks of meat. It would, however be even more benefit in hunting. I suspect that rex would take hold and not release that bite until whatever it was biting had died or dropped from exhaustion. Indications are that there were quite a few T rex’s about and a prey animal that is bitten and runs off is potentially a meal lost. Better surival strategy would be to bite and kill right then and there.
Also, I can see where that feeding style would mesh pretty well with the atrophied, small forlimbs. They were more of a hindrance than being needed. It’s fairly easy to picture T rex in some quite violent struggles with frantic prey animals and forlimbs would only be at risk of being broken. Better to lose the weight of them and put that weight into a flexible but powerful neck and the massive, killing jaws and teeth. Watching T Rex feed would not be a sight for the squeamish. It would about have to take a bite and rip it loose, even using one of its feet to anchor the carcass to the ground while tearing it to pieces.

The more we learn about Tyrannosaurus Rex.. the more impressive an animal it must have been.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: