Power Lunch: T. Rex Had Strongest Jaw of All, Researchers Find

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Toru Hanai / Reuters

A worker looks at a replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil on display for "The Dinosaur Expo 2011" exhibition at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo June 21, 2011.

It’s not that getting bitten by an alligator is any sort of delightful experience, but compare an alligator to a Tyrannosaurus rex and you should take the alligator every time, according to a pair of British university researchers.

While Dr. Karl Bates and colleague Peter Falkingham didn’t lay out their new findings quite like that, they say their updated research of T. rex jaws show that the power of prehistoric dinosaurs’ bites exhibited the most force of any animal ever to have lived, not similar to an alligator’s chomp as previously thought.

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As published in the journal Biology Letters, the researchers explain that the maximum forces at the back teeth were between 30,000 and 60,000 Newtons, or three tons, equivalent to a medium-sized elephant sitting on you. That sure beats the 8,000 to 13,000 Newtons of force, the strength believed earlier.

To reach their new conclusions, the pair used a laser scanner to create a 3-D model of a life-sized copy of a T. rex skull exhibited at Manchester Museum (basically, they made a digital copy off an analog copy). From there, they mapped muscles onto the skull and used digital simulation to measure force when the T. rex’s teeth hit each other, Bates tells BBC Nature.

And while the researchers expected a T. rex bite to increase in force as the animal grew, models show that the force climbed disproportionately, far beyond what you could expect from the simple act of a jaw growing larger as an animal matured.

Just about everything about the force of the T. rex bite surprised researchers, from total force to its rapid force level increases, leaving one simple conclusion: it’s a good thing they’re not around to bite us anymore.

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