Allison Kubo Hutchison

We’ve already covered some key questions, such as trilobite bites (spoilers: they don’t), but recent research has shed light on another key question: what is it like to be eaten by a baby T-Rex?

The answer is that it is eaten between a hyena and a crocodile. To get this result, the first paleontologists discovered a fossil with bite marks that are believed to have come from a young T. rex specimen. The distances and dimensions of punctures on the fossilized vertebrae of an Edmontosaurus, a type of duck-billed dinosaur, were compared with various T. rex fossils of different ages and found to correspond to those between 11 and 12 years of age.

After determining that it was from T. rex, the scientists tried to duplicate the depth and shape of the wounds today. The researchers mounted a tooth made of a cobalt-chromium alloy in dental quality on an “electromechanical test system”, a biting machine, and then “bit” into a cow bone. After examining the wounds on the cow bone for resemblance to the Edmontosaurus, they determined that the young T. rex must have had a significant bite force of up to 5,600 N compared to the measly 300 N bite force in humans. Adult or fully grown T. rex had bite forces of up to 35,000 N, enough to pulverize bone, as seen in the coprolites of T. rex. Potentially enough to crush a car.

This amazing bite force, a 6-fold increase in young, is due to an important “puberty”, if you will, that occurs in specimens around the age of 14. The growth rate increases sharply and then tapers at 16-18 years. In just a few years between the ages of 12 and 18, the T. rex can grow five times its size and, depending on food availability, gain thousands of kilograms per year. This amazing growth rate has been questioned by some scientists, who suggested that the juvenile specimens were instead an entirely different species: the nanotyrannus. The nanotyrannus, or its lack, has caused significant controversy for decades.

Research into the juveniles’ impressive (albeit less astronomical than adult) bite strength confirms that they were indeed juveniles rather than any other species. Understanding how diet trends change over the course of your life can also be important. Examples of “experimental paleontology,” not to be confused with Jurassic Park-like studies, can provide vital information on species that have been dead for 65 million years.


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