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.