The Tyrannosaurus-rex, a formidable dinosaur that possessed large, powerful jaws and sharp teeth, may have had the ability to discern the food it ate. The findings come from a new study that reveals the T-Rex’s jaws had sensitive nerve endings that, assuming food was plentiful, may have allowed these primordial beasts to choose which parts of prey they snacked on.
The new study out of Japan was recently published in Historical Biology, revealing that the T-Rex had a “complex neurovascular system” involving their teeth, making the tip of their jaw “a sensitive tactile sensor.” This complex feature may have given the T-Rex the unique ability among its peers to discern different elements from its meals.
The analysis of teeth in the T-Rex jaw revealed a complex pattern of nerves similar to “tactile foraging birds” and extant crocodiles. The evidence points toward a complexity beyond that of other dinosaurs that have been analyzed, according to the study.
The research involved the lower jaw of the T-Rex, but the researchers note that the upper jaw portion likely possessed a similar level of complexity. Based on the findings, the study suggests these dinosaurs may have used their jaws and snouts for many things, including discerning selecting more nutritious parts of their prey when feeding.
The tip of the jaw may have been sensitive enough to, for example, tell the difference between a bone and meat when eating. Despite having strong enough teeth to crush bones, past research has found evidence that these dinosaurs were discerning enough to carefully gnaw the meat off of bones without crushing the bones.
As well, the tip of a T-Rex’s jaw may have been used for things like communication, caring for the young, and building nests.