Although dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago – leaving behind only fossilized skeletal remains – there are elements of dinosaurs which have survived to modern time. The only reptile on Earth which resembles our oldest ancestors is the unique ‘Komodo Dragon’ – native to Indonesia. According to a new research, the world’s largest lizard has the same tooth structure as Tyrannosaurus rex and other large meat-loving dinosaurs.
“What is so fascinating to me is that all animal teeth are made from the same building blocks, but the way the blocks fit together to form the structure of the tooth greatly affects how that animal processes food,” project leader Kirstin Brink of the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Department of Biology, said in a press release.
The study,published in the journal Scientific Reports, claims the Komodo dragon has deeply serrated teeth like dinosaurs that let them tear through the flesh and bone of victims.
Brink and her colleagues used both a scanning electron microscope and a fancy ‘synchrotron’, that can identify a substance’s chemical composition, in order to evaluate tooth slices from eight meat-eating dinosaurs, such as T. rex, Allosaurus, Coelophysis and Gorgosaurus.
The team revealed that the serrations on the teeth of these predators were supplemented by tissues inside of each tooth. The arrangement of these tissues reinforced the serrations all the more, making the teeth more efficient at biting through bones and ripping flesh.
Interesting side note: Normally, human teeth are anchored into the jaw bone by fibrous bands of tissue called the ‘Periodontal membrane’ with fibre referred to as ‘Sharpey’s fibre’
Before carnivorous dinosaurs became extinct, they were the top of food chain for about 165 million years. They retained their reputation as the planet’s top terrestrial predators only because of these serrated teeth which let them conquer smaller prey.
Komodo Dragons are just as deadly as the dinosaurs?
Komodo dragons can kill large prey too, including humans and 1200-pound water buffalos. Komodo dragons also produce a venom whose toxins can prevent their victim’s blood from clotting. Before the venom was discovered by scientists, animal experts used to think that bacteria harbored in the mouths of Komodo dragons helped to kill prey.
Brink and her team determined that, in the dinosaur teeth, the unique arrangement of interior tooth tissues did not develop in response to the carnivores chewing hard materials. They came to that conclusion after examining samples of dinosaur teeth that had not yet broken through the gums when the animals died. They also looked at samples from mature dinosaur teeth.
“What is startling and amazing about this work is that Kirstin was able to take teeth with these steak knife-like serrations and find a way to make cuts to obtain sections along the cutting edge of these teeth,” said co-author Robert Reisz. “If you don’t cut them right, you don’t get the information.
He added, “This brought about a developmental explanation for the tooth formation; the serrations are even more spectacular and permanent.”