Dinosaurs Inside and Out

Teeth and Claws

What can scientists tell from the shape of carnivorous dinosaurs’ teeth?

The teeth of carnivorous dinosaurs were much different than those of herbivores. In general, a carnivore’s teeth had large gaps between them; the teeth acted as daggers, powered by the force of the jaw muscles and the dinosaur’s weight. The teeth in a carnivorous dinosaur were different sizes, since new teeth were continually growing to replace those lost or broken, mostly from biting into bone or even fighting with other carnivores.

A typical large carnivore, such as an Allosaurus, had backward curving, knifelike teeth. Each tooth had serrations on the front and back edges. Paleontologists theorize that a large carnivore like the Allosaurus would practice what is called macropredation. It would run into its victim, mouth open as wide as it could to drive the teeth in as far as possible. Closing its jaws, it would begin to jerk its powerful neck, ripping off a huge chunk of meat. The animal would then swallow this chunk whole, letting its digestive system take care of the rest. It would continue tearing off pieces of the victim until it was full.


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