Was the Tyrannosaurus Rex a foodie?
The dinosaur, which was entrenched in popular notion as a ruthless predator that chewed on every unfortunate creature that came its way, actually had a jaw full of nerve endings that made it a more sensible eater than previously known, according to the paleontologists in Japan published their results in Historical Biology on Monday.
While not a really sophisticated restaurateur, the T. rex had a sophisticated mandible comparable to the jaws of modern crocodiles and tactile foraging birds like ducks, according to scientists at the Fukui Prefectural Institute of Dinosaur Research, and the University who conducted the study Has.
In other words, according to the study, T. rex most likely did not eat blindly. It had keen senses that might have enabled it to see different parts of its prey and chew on it differently depending on what it was chewing.
“Tyrannosaurus’ jaws were strong enough to crush bones,” Soichiro Kawabe, one of the study’s authors and a paleontologist at the Institute, it said in an email. “However, in abundant food situations, they may have used their delicate snouts to selectively eat the more nutrient-rich parts of their prey. The diet of Tyrannosaurus may not have been as coarse as we imagine. “
The study doesn’t say how discriminatory the T. rex was or whether it could tell the difference between bones and meat.
“These speculations are pretty imaginary and are not within the scope of what we can scientifically deduce from our research,” said Dr. Kawabe.
The importance of the study is that it shows the complex development of the nerves in the Tyrannosaurus lower jaw, he said.
“Based on the morphology of the Tyrannosaurus mandibular nerve, we were able to determine that the tip of the Tyrannosaurus jaw was most likely a fairly capable sensor,” said Dr. Kawabe.
Dr. Kawabe and another scientist, Soki Hattori, an assistant professor at the institute, used computed tomography or CT scans to analyze and reconstruct the canal structure of the jawbone through which nerves and blood vessels would have passed. They examined the fossil of a T. rex found in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana.
The fossil is well preserved, which allowed researchers to study the canal structure, he said.
The delicate tips of the jaws also give clues as to how the Tyrannosaurus might have conceived.
Crocodiles have a sensitive snout that helps them recognize prey in the water, but also gives them such a finely tuned sense of touch that they can carry their young in their mouths without crushing them with their powerful jaws.
“Tyrannosaurus might have done the same,” said Dr. Kawabe.
The study highlights “the sensitive side of the T. rex,” said Jack Tseng, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who read the report.
“We were more obsessed with the powers the T. Rex might possess than with its finesse,” he said. “That gives us a feel for its finesse.”
The report adds “another dimension,” said Dr. Tseng, who analyzed the bite of the juvenile tyrannosaurus.
“They weren’t fools chewing on anything they saw, how it moved,” he said.
Dr. However, Tseng said the study’s results underscore the need for more fossil evidence to show how the dinosaur’s delicate lower jaw was used. Analysis of coprolites, or fossilized feces, “could be another way to understand how sensitive your palate was,” he said.
The report’s authors admitted that their results are limited: they did not analyze the entire lower jaw area of the dinosaur or use other dinosaur fossils for comparison.
“Ideally, this study can be continued with a variety of additional species of dinosaurs to see if Tyrannosaurus was really extraordinary or just an ordinary carnivorous dinosaur,” said Thomas R. Holtz, paleontologist at the University of Maryland, who read the study . “But even this smaller study helps us understand dinosaurs better than living, sentient animals.”