Tyrannosaurus rex

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tyrannosaurus rex has represented the biggest and baddest of the predatory dinosaurs. Its tooth-studded jaws still inspire a mix of fear and fascination in many museum halls, and there can be no doubt that this apex predator of the North American Cretaceous had a formidable bite. But new research shows that the secret of the strength of Tyrannosaurus isn’t found in its jaws, but in its neck.

While the small forearms of Tyrannosaurus and its close kin were muscular and could have acted like meathooks in apprehending prey, these dinosaurs primarily used their head and neck to capture and kill other dinosaurs. Indeed, the neck of Tyrannosaurus would have had to withstand the stresses of grappling with struggling hadrosaurs and horned dinosaurs in addition to the regular strains of carrying around such an enormous noggin.

Using scars left on bone by muscle attachments and the anatomy of living birds and crocodiles as a guide, paleontologists Eric Snively of the University of Alberta and Anthony Russell of the University of Calgary created a digital reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus in 2007 to investigate the range of motion and muscular forces the tyrant’s neck would have allowed.

Their reconstruction of the neck muscles of Tyrannosaurus showed surprisingly that they were strong enough to quickly swing that enormous head to the side while attacking prey. It probably didn’t even need to latch on with its tiny forelimbs before the initial, crushing bite.

Even more impressive, they discovered Tyrannosaurus would have been capable of tossing its prey upwards to give the jaw muscles a moment to relax before snapping shut to reposition the food. According to the scientists’ measurements, Tyrannosaurus could have tossed a 110-pound chunk of meat up to 16 feet in the air. This peculiar mode of consumption, known as inertial feeding, is seen among living birds and crocodiles.

Read More http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/dinosaur-arsenal-gallery


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