Huge head, grinning mouth and sharp fangs – that’s how you know the most famous of all dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus rex. But the giant reptile probably looked different, a recent study by a Canadian and US team of researchers suggests. published in the journal Science.
More lizard, less crocodile
As a result, the T-rex’s jaws resemble those of a lizard more than that of a crocodile. In other words, the dinosaur’s teeth were not visible from the outside, but were hidden under skin lips. This is the result of examining the shape of the jaws, tooth structure and wear and tear of different forms of reptiles.
According to the researchers, the head of the extinct dinosaur looked more like that of today’s Komodo dragon – even though the Tyrannaurus is more closely related to crocodiles than to lizards. These relationships are in all probability the reason why scientists have long imagined the teeth of the Tyrannosaurus rex to be exposed. Because paleontologists often base their research on extinct species on the closest living relatives.
Saliva protects tooth enamel
However, the analysis of the tooth structures comes to a different conclusion, as the researchers emphasize. Because with exposed teeth, the wear is significantly higher. The saliva makes an important difference. Without it, teeth dry out faster. In addition, without lips there is a higher risk of damaging the teeth when eating. This damage could be proven on the teeth of crocodiles, but not on the tyrannosaurus teeth. The enamel also suggests that the dinosaur teeth were protected by saliva and lips.
And another point speaks in favor of the lip theory: The fangs of the Tyrannosaurus rex are very large, but in relation to the skull they are no larger than in lizards such as the Komodo dragon. However, the research team emphasizes that the study results cannot be related to all dinosaur species, but only to the group of theropods, which also includes the Tyrannosaurus rex.