Steven Spielberg may want to fire his dinosaur man, as new research suggests that the snarling, teeth-bearing thug of a tyrannosaurus rex immortalized by "Jurassic Park" may have been somewhat wide of the mark. According to Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto, the enormous predator in fact probably had a set of smackers covering up its colossal chompers – just imagine the sight of that breaking down the outhouse while you’re sitting on the can.
Though the T-rex is almost always depicted with its gigantic teeth on full display, Reisz says that, if this truly were the case, then the ancient beast would probably have suffered a whole host of dental problems, as its enamel would have been dried out.
Presenting his work at the Canadian Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference last week, he explained how he came to his conclusion after comparing the anatomy of the T-rex to that of the crocodile and the monitor lizard.
According to Reisz, crocodiles do not have lips because they live in an aquatic environment, and therefore face no danger of their tooth enamel drying out. Land-based reptiles like the monitor lizard, however, need to protect their teeth from the elements in order to keep them moist, and for this reason, have a set of thin, scaly lips.
Monitor lizard. Vidu Gunaratna/Shutterstock
“In popular culture, we imagine dinosaurs as more ferocious-looking, but that is not the case,” said Reisz. “If you have your teeth sticking out, you can’t hydrate the enamel. You can’t maintain it properly.”
Therefore, despite the fact that most people tend to imagine the T-rex as a terrifying mass of teeth and scales, the reality may well be that the dinosaur’s dental glory has been somewhat exaggerated, and would actually have been hidden behind lips and other oral architecture.
For instance, “it’s also important to remember that teeth would have been partially covered by gums,” said Reisz. “If we look at where the enamel stops, we can see that a substantial portion of the teeth would be hidden in the gums.”