The reason you can get lost in volumes of dinosaur facts is a credit to the research skills of archeologists. Most of what they have to work with is stone in the shape of bone, and if they're lucky, reasonable comparisons with living creatures -- sometimes looking to the present for dinosaur deets can be just as enlightening. Case in point, by looking at modern animals, a group of scientists recently estimated that the Tyrannosaurus rex had a bite force of about 8,000 pounds.
Gregory Erickson of Florida State University and Paul Gignac of Oklahoma State University began by studying the bites of crocodiles, which Erickson told NPR were "probably our best model for looking at dinosaurs." They got crocodiles to bite a bathroom scale-like device that could measure the force of their bites, and then they used data related to bite force and crocodile jaw muscles to create 3D computer models that could estimate the bite power of T. rex.
Erickson and Gignac found that the tip of a T. rex tooth could exert 431,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, which allowed the dinosaur to break large bones and access the tasty marrow inside. The 8,000 pounds of bite force behind that pressure would be stronger than anything on Earth today -- modern crocodiles hold the record at about 3,700 pounds, and for the sake of comparison, the human bite is about 200 pounds.
That's impressive, but Erickson and Gignac believe that the T. rex doesn't hold the all-time bite record, since that would probably go to extinct species of 40-foot crocodiles that could bite at around 18,000 pounds of force. To put the T. rex bite in perspective then, Erickson said to NPR, "That's like setting three small cars on top of the jaws of a T. rex — that's basically what was pushing down."
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