Science

Between a T. Rex’s Powerful Jaws, Bones of Its Prey Exploded


New research suggests that the Tyrannosaurus rex crushed its prey with 7,800 pounds of force. Credit Paul Gignac
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It’s no surprise that the Tyrannosaurus rex had a mighty bite, but just how powerful were its gigantic chompers? A study published Wednesday suggests that the terrifying carnivore crushed its prey with a jaw-dropping 7,800 pounds of force — more than double what any living species can deliver.

“That’s equivalent to putting three small cars on top of the jaws — that’s what’s pushing down on you,” said Gregory M. Erickson, a paleobiologist from Florida State University and co-author of the study that appeared in the journal Scientific Reports. “Boom! It’ll puncture through just about whatever’s in there.”

Even bone, according to Dr. Erickson. The finding helps provide more evidence to the idea that the T. rex shattered bones and swallowed the fragments for sustenance.

The behavior, known as extreme osteophagy, is seen today in carnivorous mammals like gray wolves and spotted hyenas, but not in reptiles.

A 3-D rendering of the jaw muscles in a Tyrannosaurus rex. Credit Paul Gignac and Gregory Erickson

“If you could bite through bone, you can get nutrients from within the bone itself,” said Paul M. Gignac, a paleobiologist at Oklahoma State University and the lead author on the paper.

This strategy of crushing and ingesting bones would have been particularly useful for the T. rex, according to the researchers, because the giant dinosaur was not only an efficient killing machine, but also an opportunistic scavenger. If a T. rex came across a carcass, it could still enjoy an easy meal.

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