The mouth of a T-Rex was more than just an SUV full of teeth.
The mighty mandibles of the tyrannosaurus rex are, unsurprisingly, its best-known feature. From the massive T-rex of Jurassic Park to the Red Ranger’s Tyrannosaurus Dinozord, those massive, toothy maws were always their first and last weapons in their hunt for prey and foes. However, according to a study published in Historical Biology, the jaw of the T-rex wasn’t just a massive slab of muscle and bone, but an extremely complex sensory tool.
“Tyrannosaurus rex was an even more fearsome predator than previously believed,” writes Dr. Soichiro Kawabe, a paleontologist at the Institute of Dinosaur Research at Fukui Prefectural University. “Our findings show the nerves in the mandible of Tyrannosaurus rex is more complexly distributed than those of any other dinosaurs studied to date, and comparable to those of modern-day crocodiles and tactile-foraging birds, which have extremely keen senses.”
It’s long been assumed that the mouth of a T-rex was just a big lump of solid bone, feeling little if any of the world around it. This new discovery paints a completely different picture: the jaw of a T-rex contains a myriad of sensitive canals that could detect subtle variations in both a T-rex’s prey and the world around it. This detection ability could, theoretically, allow the T-rex to make subtle shifts in the movement of its mouth, changing the way it chews and attacks based on its prey. It wasn’t just an indiscriminate hunter; it strategized.
Dr. Kawabe made this discovery by using computer scanning and imaging on a T-rex fossil obtained from the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. “Our study reveals the presence of neurovascular canals with complex branching in the lower jaw of Tyrannosaurus rex, especially in the anterior region of the dentary, and it is assumed that a similarly complex branching neurovascular canal would also be present in its upper jaw,” Dr. Kawabe said.