Scientists already knew Tyrannosaurus rex had a ferocious bite, but a new study in Scientific Reports spells out in detail just how fearsome it was. In terms of raw numbers, they measured the bite force at nearly 8,000 pounds, with the tip of the teeth exerting pressure of around 431,000 pounds per square inch.
That’s more than double the bite force of the living champ, crocodiles. The feat allowed T. rex to “pulverize” bones, the better to get at the marrow inside, say researchers in a release.
Here’s how stories covering the study tried to put the astonishing bite force into relatable terms:
“That’s like setting three small cars on top of the jaws of a T. rex—that’s basically what was pushing down,” NPR quotes researcher Gregory Erickson of Florida State University as saying.
“The maximum pressure at the tip of a T. rex tooth was 28 times what is felt at the bottom of the deep-sea Mariana Trench in the western Pacific,” writes Ben Guarino in the Washington Post.
“It was enough to cause the toughest dinosaur bones to fracture.”
A T. rex bite could shatter bones like a “.45-caliber bullet with a mushroom head,” Erickson tells the Post.
Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when a T.
rex chomps on a Ford Explorer as if it were a snack? This study shows it “might not have been that hyperbolic,” writes Maddie Stone at Gizmodo.
Popular Science explains the two numbers: Bite force (the 8,000-pound figure) refers to the force exerted by the jaw, but that’s only half the story.
“The other really big factor is how that force was applied. And in the case of T. rex, that force was concentrated at the tips of giant, sharp, serrated teeth that enhanced the power of the jaws up to a whopping 431,342 pounds per square inch (psi). That’s comparable to 1/128 the estimated pressure at the center of the Earth.”
All of which leads to one final quote from Erickson, this time in Newsweek.
Asked to describe what it would be like to be bitten, he said: “To quote Clubber Lang from Rocky III: ‘Pain’—albeit brief.”
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