According to a recent study, T. rex and other theropod dinosaurs may have had lips, which contradicts the popular belief that they had teeth jutting out of their mouths. For a long time, both paleontologists and paleoartists have debated whether these carnivorous dinosaurs had lips. Reconstructions by scientists in the 1920s and ’30s showed them with flesh over their teeth, but popular media, such as the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, popularized dinos with large, prominent teeth and no lips.
What further research suggests
To investigate this further, Thomas Cullen, a paleobiologist at Auburn University, and his colleagues analyzed the relationship between skull length and tooth size of living reptiles, including Komodo dragons, and several theropod dinosaurs such as the Velociraptor and T. rex. They found that their teeth were not too big or too long for their skulls, similar to living lizards, and thus didn’t have to stick out of their mouths.
The researchers also compared the enamel thickness of a dinosaur tooth with that of a crocodile. They found that the crocodile tooth had a significantly thinner layer of enamel on its outside than the dinosaur tooth, suggesting that the dinosaurs likely had lips that protected their teeth from the elements.
Finally, the team compared the skull anatomy of lizards, iguanas, dinosaurs, and crocodiles. Although birds are the closest living relatives of theropods, they don’t have teeth. So, the researchers compared the features of iguanas and monitor lizards, both of which have lips, with dinosaurs and crocodiles. They found that dinosaur skulls much more closely resemble those of the lipped lizards and iguanas, suggesting that theropod dinos must have also had lips.
Not everyone is convinced
Emily Lessner, a vertebrate paleontologist at Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who was not involved in the study, said, “This is a nice, concise answer to a question that has been asked for a long time.” However, not all experts are convinced.
This study sheds light on a long-debated topic among paleontologists and paleoartists. It offers an answer to how theropod dinosaurs may have looked like and provides insight into their anatomy. The findings of this study could change the way these iconic creatures are depicted in popular culture.