London: Tyrannosaurus Rex used its fiercely strong jaw and neck muscles to literally rip the head off Triceratops after killing the huge armoured creatures, a new study has claimed.
Research into Triceratops fossils from the US shows that the Jurassic apex predator first slew its prey, then wrenched off its head in order to get to nutrient-rich neck meat hidden by body armour, the Daily Mail reported.
Tyrannosaurus was well known to feed on the Triceratops, but until now few have questioned how it got around the herbivore’s tough neck frill.
A study presented last week at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting, looked for an answer by examining bite-scarred Triceratops bones.
Denver Fowler at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, and colleagues studied specimens from Montana’s Hell Creek Formation which showed the characteristic Tyrannosaurus bite marks.
Most of the time they found with the marks were skulls, none of which showed any kind of healing - indicating that bites were inflicted on dead animals as they were eaten.
The researchers were intrigued to see that many extensive puncture and pull marks were actually on the neck frills of the specimens.
This seemed to make no sense. Made up mostly of bone and keratin, the neck frill would not have offered much nutrition to a hungry dinosaur, Fowler explained.
However, on closer inspection, the team discovered deep parallel grooves which revealed that the Tyrannosaurus was probably actually using its teeth and jaws to pull on the frill in an effort to reposition its prey.
They suggested that the frills were the only barrier stopping the predator from sinking its teeth into Triceratops nutrient-rich neck muscles.
“It’s gruesome, but the easiest way to do this was to pull the head off,” Fowler said.
He and his colleagues found more evidence to back up their grisly theory by examining the Triceratops ball-socket head-neck joint - known as the occipital condyles - where they also found bite marks which could have only been made if the dinosaur was decapitated.
The findings are published in the journal Nature.