Measuring the Force: FSU Research Team Discovers Bite Capacity of T-Rex

Pre-Historic Bite Force
Posted at 7:50 PM, May 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-20 19:50:00-04

Tallahassee, Fla., (WTXL) - "Tyrannosaurus Rex was truly a walking weapon of destruction," Dr. Gregory Erickson explains. He's a professor of Biological Sciences at Florida State University, and his team has made a ground breaking discovery fifteen years in the making.  

Erickson's research has found that T-Rex could bite down with 8,000 pounds of force. Meaning, the prehistoric predator could easily crush three small cars in his jaws. The dinosaur's teeth could convey 431,000 pounds per square inch of pressure with each bite. That's the highest estimated tooth pressure generated by any animal in history. 

Erickson says this means the T-Rex could crush though the flesh, and bone of any creature in encountered. 

But how did the research team come to make this discovery? Their mathematical models are based on data collected over more than a decade. Data collected by death defying stunts of science. 

"A small army of researchers here at FSU have been trying to crack the code as to how crocodilians were so successful." Erickson says. Crocodilian is a term that applies to all predatory, semi-aquatic reptiles (often large animals, like alligators, caimens, and crocodiles).

His team assembled scales that they enticed predatory reptiles to chomp on, thereby measuring the force of their jaws. A dangerous task, but one that yielded results.

"We determined the highest bite force for any living animal, the world record. That's 3,700 pounds for a 17-foot salt water crocodile." Erickson explains. "Armed with that data, it allowed us to create a model to predict how each muscle contributes to force. We've now carried that model over to Tyrannosaurus Rex." 

For paleontologists this new model is a game-changer. It can be applied to any dinosaur to determine their bite force, and by extension scientists can now deduce much more about the diets of animals that are long extinct.

It all started with modern day crocodiles.

"The same musculature you see in a crocodile would be present in a T-Rex." Erickson says, "Using muscle scars on a T-Rex skull, we can figure out how big the muscles were."

When asked about the impacts of his research, this scientists answers with a smile.

He says he knows information about animals that have been dead for hundreds of millions of year can be arbitrary. However, dinosaurs tend to have a special way of catching the attention of children. Paleontology often bring little ones their first ever exposure to the scientific method. So finding out that the force was strong with T-Rex? That just puts dinosaurs back in the spot-light, and offers new chances for young imaginations to turn to science for inspiration.