When you think of carnivorous dinosaurs, what is it that makes them so ferocious? Sure, there’s their massive size, their mean-looking faces, and their sweeping tails, but mostly, it’s that fine set of pointy teeth that would have you quaking in fear at the sight of a real T. Rex. What were carnivorous dinosaur teeth like?
As a general rule, the teeth of carnivore dinosaurs were sharp and chiseled for slicing, tearing, and pulling flesh. Some carnivores like the Allosaurus had curved yet sharp teeth that could prevent prey from escaping. Outside of the sharpness of their teeth, carnivores also had tremendous bite forces, with a T. Rex’s bite force being 12,000 pounds.
If you enjoyed our post on herbivorous dinosaur teeth, you wouldn’t want to miss this one. First, we’ll highlight the traits of the teeth installed in the heads of some of the scariest meat-eating dinosaurs around. Then we’ll compare carnivorous meat-eating and herbivorous plant-eating dinosaur teeth.
Meat-eating dinosaurs hunted the herbivorous dinosaurs. They lived together in the same ecosystem, and scientists estimate that carnivores were about 40% of the population, the remaining 60% being plant-eaters.
Fossilized teeth have been found in the skulls of fossils of giant carnivorous dinosaurs like Allosaurus and Giganotosaurus.
These carnivores could have hundreds of sharp teeth, which h were perfect for ripping flesh from bones and cutting through meat. The front teeth were serrated (like a steak knife or steak knives), which means that they could cut through flesh and bone. The tooth was also covered in sharp points for ripping flesh off the bone.
The back teeth were not serrated. These carnivores were only found in North and South America. With a length of 25 feet long, Allosaurus would have fed on young hadrosaurs, which were herbivorous dinosaurs. Giganotosaurus was smaller than Allosaurus, and it had similar teeth.
These carnivores lived in the same area as hadrosaurs and ceratopsians, which were large horn-head herbivorous dinosaurs.
Let’s get started!
How Big and Sharp Were Carnivore Dinosaur Teeth? Some of the Key Features of Their Teeth
Carnivorous dinosaurs, feeding on smaller dinos and other creatures, had the most fearsome teeth around. Yet, the size of their teeth wasn’t always as massive as you may have expected. For instance, the Allosaurus had teeth about an inch long, excluding the root. The T. Rex’s teeth were about 12 inches apiece, which is believed to be the same size as the fear-inducing teeth of a sabretooth tiger.
This 2012 report from the University of Alberta also describes T. Rex’s teeth as not particularly sharp. The researchers instead called the Tyrannosaurus’ teeth “fairly dull and wide, almost like bananas.” The reason for this? According to the study, if the T. Rex possessed sharp yet flat teeth like a knife, those teeth would have been prone to snapping.
So what were carnivorous dinosaur teeth like? Here are some common traits.
Okay, so the T. Rex’s teeth were more chisel-like than anything, but that doesn’t mean carnivorous dinosaurs didn’t possess sharp chompers. Some dinosaurs may have even had such sharp teeth biting into their prey’s bones as possible.
YouTube Video About The Most Famous Dinosaur Tooth
It would have been very damaging for the prey, likely leading to their death faster. The sharpness of carnivore dinosaur teeth would have also made it easier for the dinosaur to feast on their meal.
Rarely were carnivorous dinosaurs’ teeth straight from top to bottom. Instead, many of their teeth would have a more subtle curve in some dinosaur species than others. The curve was designed to prevent prey from getting loose once in the clutches of the carnivorous dinosaur’s mouth.
Interestingly, despite having straight teeth that were about half an inch apiece, the Velociraptor used its claws in the way that other carnivorous dinosaurs relied on their teeth to hold their prey in one place.
The spacing between one dinosaur tooth and the next wasn’t much for a lot of carnivore species. This closeness meant that even if their teeth weren’t the sharpest–such as with the T. Rex–the sheer number of teeth in the dinosaur’s mouth would have been sure to do some damage.
When you consider the bite force of a T. Rex is 12,000 pounds, and the dinosaur possessed an average of 60 teeth, death was imminent for whatever poor dinosaur or creature happened to cross the T. Rex’s path!
Besides the sharp ends of the teeth, carnivore dinos also had serrated teeth, especially along the sides. If you’ve ever cut into a nice, juicy steak with a serrated knife, then you have a pretty good idea of what these dinosaurs could use their teeth for.
The serrations could tear into flesh, so even if the dinosaur couldn’t reach the bone, they’d still kill their prey with ease.
Besides the texture, the way the teeth were packed could also be impactful. Some dinosaurs had wider jaws that let their sharp, serrated teeth act as hacksaws for quickly murdering their prey. (Source)
Carnivorous dinosaur teeth are not necessarily consistent across the dino’s whole mouth. Their upper row of teeth might have been the pointier, deadlier ones, while the bottom row could contain smaller or flatter teeth.
This kind of variety might have aided these dinosaurs in biting and chewing their prey.
What Made Carnivore Dinosaur Teeth Different from Herbivorous Dinosaurs and What Were Their Uses?
Carnivorous dinosaur teeth had multiple functions: gripping flesh, tearing into it, and getting down to the bone in some instances.
Those purposes are very different from how herbivorous dinosaurs used their teeth. They had spoon-shaped, conical, leaf-shaped, or pencil-shaped teeth for pulling down leaves and chewing tough vegetation.
H3 Carnivore Teeth – The Meat Eaters
Take Triceratops teeth, for instance. This four-legged horned dinosaur ate ferns, low hanging tree branches. The long-necked sauropods also had teeth designed to eat plants.
H3 Herbivore Teeth – The Plant Eaters
The sharpest teeth you’d find in a plant-eater mouth were the aforementioned leaf-shaped teeth, which are frequently compared to spatulas. Like a spatula, these teeth were wide and broad and somewhat pointed at the edges. A bridge in the center of both sides of the tooth featured a raised texture with a rough edge.
These teeth were among the handiest for chomping vegetation, but would the leaf-shaped teeth have been able to bite into dinosaur or animal flesh as well? While we don’t know for sure, more than likely, the answer is no.
That’s not the diet of herbivorous dinosaurs, after all, so their teeth weren’t evolved for ripping into flesh the way an Allosaurus would.
H3 Dinosaur Tooth Replacement Rate
One interesting thing to compare in the teeth of carnivores and herbivores was the rate of replacement. As the teeth wear down, new ones from in the jaw replace them.
Scientists have been able to apply tooth replacement rates to tooth fossils and calculate tooth replacement rates in carnivores. Tooth shape and size can indicate what animal a fossilized tooth belongs to.
Scientists have found that to keep up with this replacement rate, a carnivore dinosaur had to have replaced its teeth 40-50 times before reaching full maturity. The stress of chewing on bones may have increased the rate at which new teeth could form.
Tooth replacement rates, which are the time it takes for a tooth to grow and be replaced by another tooth, can be used to determine how a given animal’s teeth developed and changed over its lifetime.
By contrast, a plant-eating dinosaur could replace its teeth every 30 days and, in general, much faster than carnivores. (Source)
Meat Eaters T. Rex or Giganotosaurus – What Kind of Carnivore Teeth Did They Have?
If you recall from our post on herbivorous dinosaurs, the types of teeth found in the mouths of these dinos varied from one species to another. You’re about to see that that’s the case with carnivorous dinosaurs as well.
Allosaurus is an example of a meat-eating dinosaur that had sharp, serrated teeth. These teeth were perfect for cutting meat and bone. Giganotosaurus had similar types of teeth.
Paleontologists have studied the skull fossils of these dinos and found that they had different types of teeth. The teeth were designed to rip flesh from bones and cut through the meat.
We have already talked a lot about T. Rex’s teeth throughout this article because no carnivorous dinosaur is better known than the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.
Just seeing its fossilized skull in the museum with all its teeth is enough to make you wonder how scary it would be to see it alive and to hunt in prehistoric times.
The T. Rex had 60 teeth in its mouth at any one time, as mentioned. If one of their teeth fell out, they could grow new teeth. It’s believed that it could have shed and regrown thousands of teeth in the average dinosaur’s lifespan. This predator also claims the title of having the largest tooth, at 12 inches long. (Source)
The T. Rex’s teeth may have been duller than you would have thought, but its teeth were very close to one another at the front and more spaced out at the sides. The chisel shape of their teeth made it effortless for the T. Rex to grip flesh and then tear into it. The spacing of its side teeth also aided the dinosaur in tearing.
Another terrifying predator was the Giganotosaurus, a theropod that lived during the Late Cretaceous Period. Its fossils have been unearthed in modern-day Argentina.
Interestingly, the Giganotosaurus outshined the T. Rex regarding the teeth, as the former dinosaur was blessed with 76 teeth. They were shorter teeth than those of the T. Rex, with each measuring eight inches long.
The cross-section of the Giganotosaurus’ mouth was oval-shaped, yet when viewed sideways, the teeth looked compressed. The back and front borders both featured serrations, with as many as 12 serrations per tooth.
The Giganotosaurus’ teeth were curved as well. All this tells us that this dinosaur could grip and tear into flesh and that its prey wouldn’t escape.
The predator of the Late Jurassic Epoch was the Allosaurus, which resembles a T. Rex in size and stature. Looking into its mouth, Allosaurus was surprisingly sparse on teeth, with only 32 chompers, which meant 16 teeth up top and then another 16 in its bottom row of teeth. Their teeth were also tiny, measuring two to four inches.
Still, experts agree that the Allosaurus’ teeth were small but mighty, as they were sharp and serrated. As the rows of teeth progressed, they curved and shrunk even further. The curve of the teeth would have held the prey deep in the mouth of the Allosaurus.
The Lythronax had huge teeth, with the bigger ones 7.5 inches. This dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period didn’t lack teeth either, with as many as 50 teeth in its mouth.
Only its five front teeth were large; the subsequent teeth shrunk throughout the rest of the mouth. Those sharp teeth were the sizing equivalent of a banana with serrations and sharp points. (Source)
It should come as no surprise considering that the Lythronax is a tyrannosaurid, meaning it has ties to the T. Rex. It sounds like the Lythronax could have had even sharper teeth than T. Rex, which certainly is interesting!
We want to talk about the last carnivorous dinosaur, the Kronosaurus, which featured three-inch teeth, up to 75 of them. This lizard-like dino, which has a Greek name meaning “lizard of Kronos,” was a pliosaur roamed during the Early Cretaceous Period.
As many as six of its teeth were conical yet sharp. Three of its maxillary teeth were fang-like. However, the Kronosaurus wasn’t perfect. Its teeth had no cutting edges, so while the dinosaur could easily bite into prey, tearing and chewing might have posed problems for this undersea creature of the deep.
Carnivorous dinosaurs were known for their sharp teeth with serrated edges, but not all dinos had identical smiles. The T. Rex, for instance, didn’t have the super pointy teeth that you would expect, while the Lythronax was known for its razor-sharp bite. It’s always fascinating to see how evolution changed the teeth shape and spacing of dinosaurs depending on their diet!