Science and TechAnimals and Insects


The Tyrannosaurus rex may not have shown big teeth after all

If you think large dinosaurs looked like how they were depicted in Jurassic Park, you might want to think again.
T-rex on display at Chicago's Field Museum.
Posted at 2:26 PM, Mar 31, 2023

We've all seen depictions of large theropod dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus rex displaying large teeth. But some researchers believe it could all be a myth. 

Research released this week by an international group of university researchers shows theropods might have had mouths more like lizards than crocodiles. 

“Dinosaur lips would be very different from our lips, in that although they would cover the teeth, they could not really be moved independently, couldn’t be curled back into a snarl, or make other sorts of movements we associate with lips in humans,” said Auburn University professor Thomas Cullen, who co-authored the study. “In this way, dinosaur lips would be more similar to those of many lizards or amphibians, even if we typically associate the structure of lips with mammals like ourselves.”

Molly Sampson holding the shark tooth.

9-year-old girl finds a rare megalodon tooth in Chesapeake Bay

Experts say the 15-million-year-old, 5-inch-long tooth likely belonged to a shark nearly 50 feet long.


Researchers said they looked at wear patterns of teeth and jaw morphology to determine theropods had mouths that looked more like modern lizards. 

“We're upending this popular depiction by covering their teeth with lizard-like lips. This means a lot of our favorite dinosaur depictions are incorrect, including the iconic Jurassic Park T. rex,” University of Portsmouth researcher Mark Witton said in a news release.

Witton noted that there had never really been a previous study looking at the theropods’ dental structure. 

“Dinosaur artists have gone back and forth on lips since we started restoring dinosaurs during the 19th century, but lipless dinosaurs became more prominent in the 1980s and 1990s. They were then deeply rooted in popular culture through films and documentaries,” Witton said. 

The research also could change the way scientists look at the feeding ecology and life history of large dinosaurs.