Study says T. rex has most powerful bite of any terrestrial animal

Feb 28, 2012
Tyrannosaurus rex. Image: Nobu Tamura, via Wikipedia.

Research at the University of Liverpool, using computer models to reconstruct the jaw muscle of Tyrannosaurus rex, has suggested that the dinosaur had the most powerful bite of any living or extinct terrestrial animal.

The team artificially scaled up the of a human, , a juvenile T. rex, and Allosaurus to the size of an adult T. rex. In each case the bite forces increased as expected, but they did not increase to the level of the adult T. rex, suggesting that it had the most powerful bite of any terrestrial animal.

Previous studies have estimated that T. rex's bite had a force of 8000 to 13,400 Newtons, but given the size of the animal, thought to weigh more than 6000kg, researchers suspected that its bite may have been more powerful than this. Liverpool scientists developed a computer model to reverse engineer the animal's bite, a method that has previously been used to predict dinosaur running speeds.

An animal's bite force is largely determined by the size of the . Using their computer models, researchers tested a range of alternative muscle values, as it is not precisely known what the muscles of were like. Even with error margins factored in, the computer model still showed that the T. rex had a more powerful bite than previously suggested. The smallest values predicted were around 20,000 Newtons, while the largest values were as high as 57,000 Newtons.

Researchers also found that the results for the juvenile T. rex had a relatively the weaker bite than the adult T. rex, even when size differences and uncertainties about muscle size were taken into account. The large difference between the two measurements, despite the error margins factored in, may suggest that T. rex underwent a change in feeding behaviour as it grew.

Dr Karl Bates, from the University's Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, said: "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.

"To build on previous methods of analysis, we took what we knew about T. rex from its skeleton and built a computer model that incorporated the major anatomical and physiological factors that determine bite performance. We then asked the to produce a bite so that we could measure the speed and force of it directly. We compared this to other animals of smaller body mass and also scaled up smaller animals to the size of T. rex to compare how powerful it was in relative terms.

"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."

The research, in collaboration with the University of Manchester, is published in Biology Letters.

Explore further: New branch added to European family tree

Related Stories

Fused nasal bones helped tyrannosaurids dismember prey

May 18, 2007

New evidence may help explain the brute strength of the tyrannosaurid, says a University of Alberta researcher whose finding demonstrates how a fused nasal bone helped turn the animal into a "zoological superweapon."

What did T. rex eat? Each other

Oct 15, 2010

It turns out that the undisputed king of the dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, didn't just eat other dinosaurs but also each other. Paleontologists from the United States and Canada have found bite marks on the ...

No leftovers for T. rex

Jan 26, 2011

T.rex hunted like a lion, rather than regularly scavenging like a hyena, reveals new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Recommended for you

New branch added to European family tree

12 hours ago

The setting: Europe, about 7,500 years ago. Agriculture was sweeping in from the Near East, bringing early farmers into contact with hunter-gatherers who had already been living in Europe for tens of thousands ...

'Hidden Treasure of Rome' project unveiled

Sep 16, 2014

For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of historical artifacts dating back to before the founding of Rome have been stored in crates in the Capitoline Museums of Rome, where they have remained mostly untouched. Now, ...

NOAA team reveals forgotten ghost ships off Golden Gate

Sep 16, 2014

A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
5 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2012
Two to five tons of biting strength. Awesome. But then, maybe they should also check whether the jawbone can take that kind of muscle power without breaking. That should not bee too hard, considering we know the composition of the jawbone, and there are very exact computer programs available for structural analysis.

Such science would be based on tangible facts instead of guesses on non-remaining bone mass.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2012
I am wondering how they know the structural strength of the muscle by looking at the bone?
Husky
not rated yet Feb 29, 2012
that didn't stop them from biting the dust...