Scientists have come up with one more reason to be amazed by Tyrannosaurus rex. The huge carnivorous dinosaur took a bite with an awe-inspiring force equal to the weight of three small cars, enabling it to crunch bones with ease.

Researchers on Wednesday said a computer model based on the T. rex jaw muscle anatomy and analyses of living relatives like crocodilians and birds showed its bite force measured about 3,630 kilograms, the strongest of any dinosaur ever estimated.

“T. rex could pretty much bite through whatever it wanted, as long as it was made of flesh and bone,” said Florida State University paleobiologist Gregory Erickson.

In quantifying the power of T. rex’s chomp, researchers also calculated how it transmitted its bite force through its conical, 18-centimetre teeth, finding it generated 30,300 kilograms per square centimetre of tooth pressure, another measure of its power, on the contact area of the teeth.

Advantage over predators

Bite marks on fossilized bones of dinosaurs like the horned Triceratops that lived alongside Tyrannosaurus some 66 million years ago in western North America indicated T. rex was a bone cruncher. The ability to pulverize and eat bones gave T. rex, which was about 13 metres long and weighed about 6.4 tonnes, an advantage over competing predators that could not.

“Predators with bone-crunching abilities are able to exploit a high-risk, high-reward resource: the minerals that make up bone itself and the fatty marrow that is contained inside,” said paleontologist Paul Gignac of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, lead author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“The risk is the potential to accrue extreme tooth damage from biting into bone, making it difficult or impossible to capture prey effectively or rupture the long bones of carcasses.”

Previous studies have estimated Tyrannosaurus rex‘s bite strength, but the researchers in the new study called their approach more sophisticated.

Their computer modelling was developed and tested on alligators, with the researchers studying how each muscle contributed to the bite force.

They concluded T. rex possessed the greatest tooth pressure of any creature ever studied. Its bite force far exceeded that of any living creature, but was not the greatest ever. For example, they estimated in 2012 an enormous croc called Deinosuchus, which lived a few million years before T. rex and weighed even more, had a bite strength of 10,400 kilograms.