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Angelica Torices, Ryan Wilkinson, Victoria M. Arbour, Jose Ignacio Ruiz-OmeÃaca & Philip J. Currie (2018)
Puncture-and-Pull Biomechanics in the Teeth of Predatory Coelurosaurian Dinosaurs.
Current Biology (advance online publication)
Theropods used puncture-and-pull feeding movements, based on microwear analyses
Troodontid teeth were most likely to fail at non-optimal bite angles
Troodontids may have favored prey requiring lower bite forces than dromaeosaurids
The teeth of putatively carnivorous dinosaurs are often blade-shaped with well-defined serrated cutting edges (Figure 1). These ziphodont teeth are often easily differentiated based on the morphology and density of the denticles. A tearing function has been proposed for theropod denticles in general, but the functional significance of denticle phenotypic variation has received less attention. In particular, the unusual hooked denticles found in troodontids suggest a different feeding strategy or diet compared to other small theropods. We used a two-pronged approach to investigate the function of denticle shape variation across theropods with both congruent body shapes and sizes (e.g., dromaeosaurids versus troodontids) and highly disparate body shapes and sizes (e.g., troodontids versus tyrannosaurids), using microwear and finite element analyses (Figure 1). We found that many toothed coelurosaurian theropods employed a puncture-and-pull feeding movement, in which parallel scratches form while biting down into prey and oblique scratches form as the head is pulled backward with the jaws closed. In finite element simulations, theropod teeth had the lowest stresses when bite forces were aligned with the oblique family of microwear scratches. Different denticle morphologies performed differently under a variety of simulated biting angles: Dromaeosaurus and Saurornitholestes were well-adapted for handling struggling prey, whereas troodontid teeth were more likely to fail at non-optimal bite angles. Troodontids may have favored softer, smaller, or immobile prey.