A new study has found that the Tyrannosaurus Rex had a secret structure well hidden within its serrated teeth. It allowed the Jurassic predator to tear right through the hard exterior of other large, prehistoric animals without ever breaking a sweat.
The T. Rex also shared this structure with other carnivorous predators of the time such as the Velociraptor, the Allosaurus and theropods in general (large, bipedal, carnivorous dinosaurs).
For their study, a team of researchers from the University of Toronto Mississauga looked at several theropod fossils and examined what seemed to be cracks within each of their teeth.
Kirstin Brink, lead researcher on the study and postdoctoral researcher of biology from the University of Toronto Mississauga, gave a statement informing that what she and her team found was that these so called cracks were actually deep folds which strengthened each serration and helped prevent the teeth from breaking when one of these dinosaurs sunk them into another animal.
The new study has finally disproved a false belief established in the early 1990s. Back then, another group of researchers noticed the same cracks on the teeth of an Albertosaurus, a close cousin of the T. Rex’s. They falsely concluded that they were actual cracks (damage) that appeared when the predator devoured a hearty meal.
But after conducting the new study, Brink explained that “I sectioned teeth from eight other theropods besides Albertosaurus, and found that the structure is actually in all theropods, and it’s not actually a crack”.
She went on to add that she also examined teeth that hadn’t erupted through the gums and that the creatures could not have used for feeding. She used a synchrotron and a scanning electron microscope, and found the exact same deep folds on each of the unerupted teeth. She had no choice but to conclude that they were not cracks, but a weapon, or better said a feature that strengthened a weapon (their teeth).
What’s more, she also noticed that each of these crack-like structures had more than one extra layer of calcified tissue known as “dentine”. They could be found right under the outer enamel coating of the teeth and made them tough and hard to break.
Brink and her team have a working theory that says these secret structures used to appear when a tooth was first forming. The lead researcher said that these cracks actually helped “to deepen the serration within the tooth and strengthen each serration and the tooth overall”.
Serrated teeth were useful to dinosaurs when they had to pierce through flesh or hold on to a piece of meat. The research team has dubbed these formations “deep interdental folds” and has found that they used to strengthen the serration of each tooth.
Deep interdental folds are also believed to be the reason why theropods remained the top predators on the planed for roughly 165 million years.
While serrated teeth can still be found today in Komodo Dragon, they don’t have deep interdental folds and extra dentine layers.
The study was published earlier today, on Tuesday (July 28, 2015), in the journal Scientific Reports.
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