Finite Element Analysis Indicates Juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex Crania Experienced High Strain Under Normalized High Forces, in Contrast to the Adult Condition

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Considerable focus has been directed at understanding the feeding anatomy of adult Tyrannosaurus rex, but rarely have the biomechanics of juveniles been appraised. For example, rapid growth in T. rex is thought to enable ontogenetic dietary transitions in which small gracile-snouted juveniles with narrow teeth developed into large adults with a deep snout and reinforced teeth that facilitated osteophagy. Morphology-driven exclusion and opportunity, as is observed in modern crocodylians, supports the stratification of juvenile and adult Tyrannosaurus niches through the partitioning of prey resources based on differences in feeding capacities. How the demands of prey acquisition and processing are reflected in the skull morphology and jaw mechanics of juvenile T. rex as compared to their adult counterparts is not well understood quantitively. Gaining this insight would help address the functional morphology that contributed to developmental niche partitioning in this apex predator.

Methods: Here we use finite element analysis (FEA) to quantify how the crania of a juvenile T. rex (BMRP 2002.4) responded to high forces, in comparison to a large adult individual (MOR 555).

Results: Analogous to the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), modeling results indicate that T. rex underwent dramatic transformations in morphology that manifested substantial differences in cranial stresses and strains. Specifically, the juvenile specimen showed high strain under high forces because of its relatively gracile cranium in contrast to the adult, which was capable of handling disproportionately high forces for its size. Although our results indicate that juvenile T. rex had the adaptations to bite into bone, it appears that only adults were able to wedge bone apart, requisite for extreme osteophagy. These morpho-adaptive results resonate with trace evidence from tyrannosaur inflicted bite marks.

Conclusion: Our findings reveal how dietary trends may have been dynamic for large-bodied tyrannosaur species and point towards important understanding that can be gained through interrogation of their ecological roles throughout life.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages59
StatePublished - 22 Feb 2021
EventOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Days 2021: Poster presentation - Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Campus, Tulsa, United States
Duration: 22 Feb 202126 Feb 2021

Conference

ConferenceOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Days 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityTulsa
Period22/02/2126/02/21

Keywords

  • Tyrannosaurus
  • Biomechanics
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Vertebrate Paleontology

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