Craniocervical feeding dynamics of Tyrannosaurus rex

Eric Snively, Anthony P. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Tyrannosaurus rex and other tyrannosaurid theropods exerted high bite forces, and large muscle attachments suggest that the tyrannosaurid neck was a concomitantly powerful component of the feeding apparatus. We examine accelerative and work-generating capacity (WGC) of neck muscles in adult Tyrannosaurus rex, using a 3-D vector-based method that incorporates aspects of muscle force generation, reconstruction of muscle morphology and moment arms, and rotational inertias of the head and neck. Under conservative assumptions, radial accelerations of the head by large superficial muscles (M. transversospinalis capitis, M. complexus, and M. longissimus capitis superficialis) enabled rapid gaze shifts and imparted high tangential velocities to food sufficient for inertial feeding. High WGC by these and deeper muscles under eccentric contraction indicate high efficacy for tearing flesh, especially with the head and neck in an extended posture. Sensitivity analyses suggest that assigned density of the antorbital region has substantial effects on calculated rotational inertia, and hence on the accuracy of results. However, even with high latitude for estimation errors, the results indicate that adult T. rex could strike rapidly at prey and engage in complexly modulated inertial feeding, as seen in extant archosaurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-638
Number of pages29
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


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