The Teeth of the Tyrannosaurs; September 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Abler; 2 Page(s)
Understanding the teeth is essential for reconstructing the hunting and feeding habits of the tyrannosaurs. The tyrannosaur tooth is more or less a cone, slightly curved and slightly flattened, so that the cross section is an ellipse. Both the narrow anterior and posterior surfaces bear rows of serrations. Their presence has led many observers to assume that the teeth cut meat the way a serrated steak knife does. My colleagues and I, however, were unable to find any definitive study of the mechanisms by which knives, smooth or serrated, actually cut. Thus, the comparison between tyrannosaur teeth and knives had meaning only as an impetus for research, which I decided to undertake.
Trusting in the logic of evolution, I began with the assumption that tyrannosaur teeth were well adapted for their biological functions. Although investigation of the teeth themselves might appear to be the best way of uncovering their characteristics, such direct study is limited; the teeth cannot really be used for controlled experiments. For example, doubling the height of a fossil tooth's serrations to monitor changes in cutting properties is impossible. So I decided to study steel blades whose serrations or sharpness I could alter and then compare these findings with the cutting action of actual tyrannosaur teeth.