It’s the small details that matter. That holds true for one hidden trait of Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth and those of other theropods.
Scientists have unveiled the one detail that made the bite of these ferocious carnivores so deadly, alongside the mere strength of the jaw. And this detail has eluded scientists until now, mimicking cracks in the teeth.
Kirstin Brink, who is the lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto Mississauga revealed that theropods had in fact serrated teeth, much like steak knives that would pierce through flesh and bone alike.
Theropods, like Velociraptor and the much famous Tyrannosaurus Rex were all found to share this characteristic. According to Brink, this feature eluded scientists for so long as each serration is individually guarded within deeply dug folds present in the teeth.
What looks as a crack due to degradation, is now known to be the protective mechanism that kept the dinosaurs’ teeth from chipping in time as they crushed the bones of their prey.
The first serrations were noticed in the 1990s in the Albertosaurus teeth. Yet, at the time, these were dismissed as cracks. A closer look two decades later showed that in fact the cracks were serrations, feature that the scientists missed entirely until now.
“I sectioned teeth from eight other theropods besides Albertosaurus, and found that the structure is actually in all theropods, and it’s not actually a crack,”
lead researcher Brink stated for Live Science.
The first tooth that was analyzed belonged to a Dimetrodon that roamed the Earth during the Paleozoic era, before dinosaurs. A section of the tooth compared to sections of eight other theropod teeth revealed different structures.
While the outside might look similar, the inside brings the specifics in the spotlight.
To fully understand if these were specific to theropods, at least to the eight species the teeth of which were put under the microscope, the scientific team also looked at the teeth of young dinosaurs.
These had never been used for hearty meals as they hadn’t even erupted from the young dinosaurs’ gum lines.
The analysis was conducted with the use of an electron microscope and that of a synchrotron, the latter determining the chemicals present in a certain substance. All cracks or foldings hiding the serrations was protected by extra calcified tissue layers present under the enamel coating typically found on the outer surface of teeth.
“We proposed a developmental hypothesis that these are structures created when the tooth is first forming. It actually helps to deepen the serration within the tooth and strengthen each serration and the tooth overall.”,
Along the killer strength of the theropods’ jaws and the sharpness of their teeth, the serrations, well hidden within the interdental folds that only added to their strength, kept the predators on top of the food chain for over 165 million years.
Photo Credits slashgear.com