Biomechanics of juvenile tyrannosaurid mandibles and their implications for bite force: Evolutionary biology

Andre J. Rowe, Eric Snively

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The tyrannosaurids are among the most well-studied dinosaurs described by science, and analysis of their feeding biomechanics allows for comparison between established tyrannosaurid genera and across ontogeny. 3D finite element analysis (FEA) was used to model and quantify the mechanical properties of the mandibles (lower jaws) of three tyrannosaurine tyrannosaurids of different sizes. To increase evolutionary scope and context for 3D tyrannosaurine results, a broader sample of validated 2D mandible FEA enabled comparisons between ontogenetic stages of Tyrannosaurus rex and other large theropods. It was found that mandibles of small juvenile and large subadult tyrannosaurs experienced lower stress overall because muscle forces were relatively lower, but experienced greater simulated stresses at decreasing sizes when specimen muscle force is normalized. The strain on post-dentary ligaments decreases stress and strain in the posterior region of the dentary and where teeth impacted food. Tension from the lateral insertion of the looping m. ventral pterygoid muscle increases compressive stress on the angular but may decrease anterior bending stress on the mandible. Low mid-mandible bending stresses are congruent with ultra-robust teeth and high anterior bite force in adult T. rex. Mandible strength increases with size through ontogeny in T. rex and phylogenetically among other tyrannosaurids, in addition to that tyrannosaurid mandibles exceed the mandible strength of other theropods at equivalent ramus length. These results may indicate separate predatory strategies used by juvenile and mature tyrannosaurids; juvenile tyrannosaurids lacked the bone-crunching bite of adult specimens and hunted smaller prey, while adult tyrannosaurids fed on larger prey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-392
Number of pages20
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


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