Photograph by Robert Clark
Slowly but surely Gregory Erickson approaches an alligator with a force transducer. A what? "It's like an extremely expensive bathroom scale," explains the Florida State University paleobiologist. When the alligator's teeth chomp down on it, the device measures the force of the bite. Large adult gators usually score between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds (900 and 1,000 kilograms) of forceapproaching the range estimated for Tyrannosaurus rex. Since the jaws and teeth of a T. rex and an alligator are biomechanically similar, T. rex may well have fed like the modern reptileshattering a victim's bones with one snap.