With a revelation that threatens to ruin some childhood toys or a Jurassic Park rewatch, paleontologists have given one of the most famous dinosaurs a facelift, proposing that the Tyrannosaurus did not sport ferocious, protruding chompers, but proportionally sized teeth concealed by a set of scaly, lizard-like lips.
In a new study out of the University of Portsmouth, an international team of researchers studied the jaw morphology, tooth structure and dental wear patterns of lipped and lipless reptiles, and found that theropod mouths looked and functioned more like those of lizards than of crocodiles, as previously thought.
“Although it’s been argued in the past that the teeth of predatory dinosaurs might be too big to be covered by lips, our study shows that, in actuality, their teeth were not atypically large,” said study leader Thomas Cullen, assistant professor of paleobiology at Auburn University. “Even the giant teeth of tyrannosaurs are proportionally similar in size to those of living predatory lizards when compared for skull size, rejecting the idea that their teeth were too big to cover with lips.”
In fact, the scientists believe their mouth structure resembled a tuatara, the small extant New Zealand lizard-like reptile that has a direct lineage from the dinosaurs. It also had a lot in common with some lizards, none of which were close relatives of the theropods.