Physics

What its Like to be Eaten by a Baby TRex

Allison Kubo Hutchison

We’ve already covered some important questions like do trilobites bites (spoiler: they don’t) but recent research has given insight into another important question: what is it like to be eaten by a baby T-Rex?

The answer is it is between being eaten by a hyena and a crocodile. To get this result, first paleontologists uncovered a fossil with bite marks that are thought to be from a young T. rex specimen. The spacing and dimensions of punctures on the fossilized vertebrae of an edmontosaurus, a type of duck-billed dinosaur, were compared to various T. rex fossils of different ages and found to match those between 11-12 years old.

After identifying that it was from the T. rex, scientists attempted to duplicate the depth and shape of the wounds today. Researchers mounted a tooth made of dental-grade cobalt-chromium alloy on an “electromechanical testing system”, a biting machine, then “bit” a cow bone. After examining the wounds on the cow bone for similarity to the edmontosaurus they found that the young T. rex must have had significant bite force up to 5,600 N compared to the measly bite force of 300 N in humans. Adult or fully grown the T. rex had bite forces of up to 35,000 N, enough to pulverize bones as seen in the coprolites of T. rex. Potentially enough to crush a car.

This amazing bite force, a 6 times increase of the juveniles occurred because of an important “puberty” if you will that occurs in specimens of ~14 years of age. The growth rate increases sharply and then tapers off at 16-18 years. In just a few years between 12 and 18, the T. rex can grow five times in size, growing thousands of kilograms a year depending on food availability. This amazing growth rate has been questioned by some scientists suggesting that instead, the juvenile specimens represented a different species entirely: the nanotyrannus. The nanotyrannus or lack thereof has caused significant controversy for decades.





Research on the juveniles’ impressive (though less astronomical than the adult’s) bite force reinforces that they were indeed juvenile specimens rather than a different species. It also may be important to understand how feeding trends change throughout their life. Instances of “experimental paleontology” not to be confused with Jurassic Park-like studies can provide important information on species dead for 65 million years. 
Image Attribution:
KoprX, Tyrannosaurus specimens, Added “adult” and “juvenile” labels, CC BY-SA 4.0
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