T. rex could destroy bones with an 8,000 pound bite

The Tyrannosaurus rex possessed the most powerful bite ever recorded, chomping down with nearly 8,000 pounds of force, according to a new computer model based on high-resolution CT scans of fossilized skulls and detailed in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

That powerful bite was capable of pulverizing the bones of its prey with force roughly equal to the weight of three small cars, according to Live Science and Popular Mechanics, but the most damage came from the teeth of the T. rex, which could exert pressures of up to 431,000 pounds per square inch (nearly 3,000 megapascals), the study authors revealed.

t rex jaw cutaway

T. Rex could generate 431,000 pounds per square inch with its massive jaw muscles. (Credit: Gignac & Erickson/Scientific Reports)

“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,” study author Paul Gignac, an assistant professor of  paleontology at Oklahoma State University, told Popular Mechanics.

This powerful bite force “allowed T. rex to bite through and even shatter bone before consuming it,” Gignac told Live Science. He and co-author Gregory Erickson, a biological science professor at Florida State University, created their simulations using CT scans of the skull and muscles that were added based on an amalgamation of the creature’s closest living relatives (birds, crocodiles, and alligators), then compared the bite force to that of a saltwater crocodile.

Bite force allowed it to puncture, slice through bones

As Popular Science explained, this is not the first study to examine the bite force of a T. rex. In 2012, biomechanist Karl Bates and his colleagues reported that the dinosaur had a maximum bite force of 12,800 pounds – higher than the current study. In both cases, however, one thing is clear – the T. rex had a bite force that was stronger than any land animal in history.

In addition to the raw force of the bite, the study also found that the sharp, serrated teeth of the T. rex enhanced the power of the dinosaur’s jaws to  431,342 pounds per square inch (psi) – around 1/128 the estimated pressure at the Earth’s core, and exponentially higher than the 2,000 psi that a hydraulic press used to crush motor vehicles is capable of delivering, the website noted.

“Having high bite force doesn’t necessarily mean an animal can puncture hide or pulverize bone, tooth pressure is the biomechanically more relevant parameter,” Erickson said in a statement. “It is like assuming a 600 horsepower engine guarantees speed. In a Ferrari, sure, but not for a dump truck.”

The T. rex was definitely closer to a Ferrari than a dump truck, as it “regularly scored, deeply punctured, and even sliced through bones” using its “incredible, nearly 8,000-pound bite forces and record-breaking, 431,000 pounds per square inch tooth pressures,” Gignac told Live Science. The creature “managed these feats, in part, because of its large size but more so because a specific set of tooth traits – extraordinarily large, conical and strongly rooted teeth that were replaced after being worn biennially,” he added.


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