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Maximum Bite Force and Prey Size of Tyrannosaurus rex and Their Relationships to the Inference of Feeding Behavior

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The feeding behavior of the theropod dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex is investigated through analysis of two variables that are critical to successful predation, bite force and prey body mass, as they scale with the size of the predator. These size-related variables have important deterministic effects on the predator's feeding strategy, through their effects on lethal capacity and choice of prey. Bite force data compiled for extant predators (crocodylians, carnivorans, chelonians and squamates) are used to establish a relationship between bite force and body mass among extant predators. These data are used to estimate the maximum potential bite force of T. rex, which is between about 183,000 and 235,000 N for a bilateral bite. The relationship between maximum prey body mass and predator body mass among the same living vertebrates is used to infer the likely maximum size of prey taken by T. rex in the Late Cretaceous. This makes it possible to arrive at a more rigorous assessment of the role of T. rex as an active predator and/or scavenger than has hitherto been possible. The results of this analysis show that adult Triceratops horridus fall well within the size range of potential prey that are predicted to be available to a solitary, predaceous T. rex. This analysis establishes boundary conditions for possible predator/prey relationships among other dinosaurs, as well as between these two taxa.

Keywords: Bite force; Body size; Dinosauria; Feeding behavior; Scavenging

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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