New Study Reveals Bite Strength of Stegosaurus

Posted on May 23, 2016

Skulls of Stegosaurus, Plateosaurus and Erlikosaurus

A new study by researchers from the University of Bristol has determined that stegosaurus had a relatively strong bite. The researchers say its bite was at least stronger than its small peg-shaped teeth suggest.

Lead author Dr Stephan Lautenschlager, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, used digital models and computer simulations to analyze the dinosaurs' bites. Data from 3D scans of the skulls and lower jaws was used to build the models. The skull of the Natural History Museum's Stegosaurus specimen 'Sophie' was compared with two plant-eating dinosaurs with similar skulls: Plateosaurus and Erlikosaurus. All three of the dinosaurs had a large low snout and a scissor-like jaw action that moved up and down.

The new study found Stegosaurus had a bite force within the range of living herbivorous mammals, such as sheep and cows. Grasses did not exist during when Stegosaurus lived 150 million years ago. The researchers know it would have needed to consume a lot of plants due to its size. Grasses did not exist then so the researchers say it likely fed on plants like ferns and horsetails.

Professor Paul Barrett, dinosaur researcher at the Natural History Museum, says in a statement, "Our key finding really surprised us: we expected that many of these dinosaur herbivores would have skulls that worked in broadly similar ways. Instead we found that even though the skulls were fairly similar to each other in overall shape, the way they worked during biting was substantially different in each case."

The research paper for the new study was published here in the journal, Scientific Reports. The Smithsonian reported in 2010 on a previous study that found Stegosaurus had a weak bite and that a human could bite harder than it could.
As calculated by Reichel, Stegosaurus didn't have a very powerful bite. Even you and I could bite harder than Stegosaurus. The dinosaur could generate enough force to crunch through twigs and branches under a half an inch in diameter, but anything bigger than that and it would have a difficult time of it. Given its weak jaws, Stegosaurus would have had to rely on soft, fast-growing plants; it is fantastic to think that this large dinosaur could have survived on such a diet!
Image: Stephan Lautenschlager