Tyrannosaurus Rex Had Most Powerful Bite of Any Terrestrial Animal

Posted on February 28, 2012

Research at the University of Liverpool suggests that Tyrannosaurus Rex had the most powerful bite of any living or extinct terrestrial animal. The massive prehistoric Megalodon shark probably had T. rex beat in the water. The researchers used computer models to reconstruct the jaw muscle of T. rex and determine its bite force. The researchers also say the bite of the T. rex strengthened as the creature matured and gained mass. A juvenile T. rex likely hunted smaller prey than adults.

Previous studies have estimated that T. rex's bite had a force of 8000 to 13,400 Newtons. By comparison, the bite force of an American alligator has been measured as high as 9,452 N. The researchers suspected T. rex's bite was much more powerful than this given its large size. The T. rex is thought to weigh more than 6000kg. Using their computer models, researchers tested a range of alternative muscle values, because it is not known exactly what the muscles of dinosaurs were like. Even with error margins factored in, the computer model still showed that the T. rex had a much 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.

The BBC has a video here of the researchers using computer models to show the dinosaur's powerful bite muscles. Dr Karl Bates, from the University of Liverpool Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, told the BBC the force of the T. rex's bite is comparable to the weight of a medium sized elephant sitting on you.

Dr Karl Bates, from the University's Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, also said in a statement about the research, "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 computer model 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, published in collaboration with the University of Manchester, is published in Biology Letters.

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