Researchers found how Tyrannosaurus Rex preserved its serrated teeth when ripping apart its prey. The secret lies in a series of microstructures subtly embedded within its pearly whites.
These hidden microstructures form cracks on the surface of the dinosaur’s teeth that can be observed with the naked eye. So, until now, researchers believed that the cracks were nothing more than the result of chomping on hard bones. But the new study suggests that the cracks are located there with a precise purpose – to prevent T. Rex’s teeth from shattering.
In their study, paleontologists analyzed several teeth of theropods, a class of carnivorous dinosaurs that could walk on two legs. Theropods include Tyrannosaurus Rex, turkey-sized Compsognathus longipes, and the agile Velociraptor.
Scientists found that the cracks within these animals’ teeth were there by design. Their main role is to strengthen the tooth when a bite occurs and prevent shattering when dinosaurs feasted on their prey, explained senior researcher Kirstin Brink from the University of Toronto Mississauga.
The cracks were first noticed by researchers in the 1990s. Back then, dinosaur experts thought that those structures were caused by stress when dinosaurs cracked their prey’s bones. Yet, the new study suggests another thing.
Ms. Brink recently said that she found the cracks in teeth of nine theropods and she believes that the structure is a common feature to all theropods. The research team first analyzed the teeth of a Dimetrodon, a phony dinosaur that had lived long before the dinosaurs in the Paleozoic era.
Brink explained that an electron microscope revealed that the Dimetrodon had a different teeth structure from dinosaurs though both species have serrated teeth.
“They look very similar on the outside. It’s only when you cut them open [that you see] that they’re completely different,”
Dr. Brink noted.
Researchers said that their hypothesis must be correct because the internal structure was also present in the teeth of young dinosaurs that didn’t have fully developed teeth and never used them for feeding.
With help from two powerful microscopes – an electron and a synchrotron microscope, the team found that every single tooth in theropods displayed the microstructures that formed the “cracks” on the outside.
Moreover, the synchrotron microscope showed that the chemical structure of these dinosaurs’ teeth was also working at their advantage because every structure was coated in multiple layers of calcified tissue right under the enamel coating, making the teeth harder and tougher.