As an adult, Tyrannosaurus rex had the most powerful bite of all terrestrial animals, living or extinct, according to a new study from the UK.
Based on previous research, the force of the T. rex bite weighed in at 8,000 to 13,400 Newtons (a Newton is the amount of net force needed to make one kg of mass accelerate at one meter per second squared), but scientists believed it could be stronger as some individuals were heavier than 6,000 kg.
Now, a team of scientists in England have used computer models to recreate the dinosaur’s jaw muscles with a range of values because it is unknown exactly what its musculature was like.
“The power of the T. rex jaw has been a much debated topic over the years,” said study co-author Karl Bates at the University of Liverpool in a press release.
“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.”
The researchers compared T. rex’s bite performance with those of smaller species, such as an alligator and a human, all scaled up to the same size. They determined that each bite force increased with size, but not to the extent of T. rex’s, which was estimated to be between about 20,000 and 57,000 Newtons.
Interestingly, the bite of a scaled up juvenile T. rex was used in the analysis, but found to be much weaker, suggesting the dinosaur’s feeding behavior changed as it matured.
“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,” Bates concluded. “Its unique musculoskeletal system will continue to fascinate scientists for years to come.”
The findings were published in Biology Letters on Feb. 28.