The Tyrannosaurus rex had jaws and teeth strong enough to “pulverize” bones, a new study suggests.
The pressure the huge dinosaur could muster when biting was equal to the “weight of three small cars simultaneously generating world record tooth pressures,” researchers from Florida State University and Oklahoma State University said.
T. rex’s bone-crushing bite is typically not seen in reptiles, which aren’t able to chew up bones, but in carnivorous mammals like wolves and hyenas.
Researchers say the T. rex could bite with more than 3,600 kilograms of pressure, which is twice the force of the current living crocodile. For bone crushing, however, the dinosaur’s conical teeth generated enough pressure to cause bones to explode.
"It was this bone-crunching acumen that helped T. rex to more fully exploit the carcasses of large horned-dinosaurs and duck-billed hadrosaurids whose bones, rich in mineral salts and marrow, were unavailable to smaller, less equipped carnivorous dinosaurs," said Paul Gignac, assistant professor of anatomy and vertebrate paleontology at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.
To reach their conclusions, researchers looked at the musculature of crocodiles, which are close relatives of dinosaurs. They also looked at birds, which are “modern-day dinosaurs.”
Crocodiles revealed that bite force did not fully account for the ability to crush bones, so researchers looked at what they call “tooth pressure.”
"Having high bite force doesn't necessarily mean an animal can puncture hide or pulverize bone; tooth pressure is the biomechanically more relevant parameter," said Gregory Erickson, a Florida State University professor of biological science. "It is like assuming a 600 horsepower engine guarantees speed. In a Ferrari, sure, but not for a dump truck."
T. rex’s unique teeth capitalized on the bite power, researchers said.
The dinosaur "managed these feats, in part, because of its large size but more so because of a specific set of tooth traits - extraordinarily large, conical and strongly rooted teeth that were replaced after being worn biennially," Gignac told CBS News.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.