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Predator Dinosaurs and Serrated Teeth: Chomping Efficiency

Jul 28, 2015 05:44 PM EDT
A Gorgosaurus used its saw-like teeth to tear into a young Corythosaurus in Alberta, 75 million years ago.
The only remaining creature with a similar superficial dental structure is the Komodo Dragon.
(Photo : Painting by Danielle Dufault)

Here's more evidence that the scariest of the prehistoric thunder-lizards had truly frightening teeth: The Tyrannosaurus rex and fellow theropods had a unique, deeply serrated tooth structure that allowed them to rip into flesh and bone.

That's according to University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (Taiwan) researchers, who recently published their report in the journal Scientific Reports.

The dinosaurs had sawlike teeth, with a special arrangement of tissues inside the tooth that fortified and improved their function. Their dental work was so much more efficient at chewing on bones and tearing flesh of larger animals that the theropods were able to prosper for about 165 million years. 
It turns out, too, that one creature living today has a similar superficial tooth structure: the Komodo dragon, according to a release.

"What is so fascinating to me is that all animal teeth are made from the same building blocks, but the way the blocks fit together to form the structure of the tooth greatly affects how that animal processes food," Kirstin Brink, a post-doctoral researcher at UTM said in the release. "The hidden complexity of the tooth structure in theropods suggests that they were more efficient at handling prey than previously thought, likely contributing to their success."

The scientists used a scanning electron microscope and a synchrotron -- the latter allows a user to understand a substance's chemical composition. With these, they examined and analyzed tooth slices from eight carnivorous theropods, including T. rex, Allosaurus, Coelophysis and Gorgosaurus. The dinosaur samples were from museums including the ROM, Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, and the Royal Tyrrel Museum in Alberta.

Follow Catherine on Twitter at @TreesWhales

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