T rex Skull Puzzle

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T. rex skull puzzle solved, according to a report in ScienceNOW 9 June 2004 and New Scientist 19 June 2004, p17. Scientists have been puzzled over why some bones in the Tyrannosaurus rex skull seemed to be bound to the surrounding bones by connective tissue, enabling them to move, rather than being solidly fused together. This seemed to be a design flaw for an animal believed to have had a bite like a great white shark and to use a technique called "puncture-pull" to capture and eat prey. (This means to startle the prey with a powerful bite and then drag the teeth back through the flesh.)

Palaeontologists at Cambridge University, UK, have used a computer modelling technique used by engineers to reveal where stresses and strains accumulate when a structure is exposed to various forces, thus identifying potential weak spots in structures. They found that the flexible bone structure dissipated forces applied to the skull, protecting it from damage. "They seem to be acting like shock absorbers," said Emily Rayfield who led the study. The model also shows that when the animal bit hard on something, compressive and shear forces were conveyed to the top of the head. This could explain why T. rex had large nose bones that fused together early in life. Gregory Erickson, a palaeontologist at Florida State University, who proposed the "puncture-pull" theory for T. rex, said the study solved the puzzle of how T. rex could be so aggressive with a flexible skull."

Editorial Comment: This study reveals how well designed the T rex skull was for biting, but it does not reveal what it bit. What an animal ate can only be proven by observing it eat something or analysing stomach contents; and aggressive behaviour can only be proven by observing it behave. Genesis tells us that all animals were originally made to eat plants. Sharp teeth and a strong bite can be just as useful for eating vegetation as they are for eating meat. By the time of Noah the world had degenerated to a violent place inhabited by "unclean" animals, i.e. scavengers. Tyrannosaurs may have become scavengers and eventually predators, but they were not created that way. (Ref. T rex, dinosaur, skull)

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