It turns out Tyrannosaurus rex might not have looked as menacing as we once thought. Picturing one brings back flashbacks of watching “Jurassic Park” as a kid, seeing the sharp pearly whites apparent to intimidate.

But a study published in the journal Science found that the teeth likely looked less monstrous and more like Barney with a “wide open bite” that would cover up the teeth when its mouth was closed, The Associated Press reported.

What did T. rex dinosaurs look like?

The conclusion found they would have looked less like crocodiles and “more like Komodo dragons.”

This illustration provided by Mark P. Witton in March 2023 depicts a juvenile Edmontosaurus being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus rex with a lipped mouth. The teeth on T. rex and other big theropods were likely covered by scaly lips, concludes a study published Thursday, March 30, 2023, in the journal Science. The dinosaur’s teeth didn’t stick out when its mouth was closed, and even in a wide open bite, you might just see the tips, the scientists found. | Mark P. Witton via Associated Press

But it’s hard to change the original image of the therapods.

“That animal has been copied so many times,” said Mark Witton, a paleoartist and researcher at the University of Portsmouth in England, told The New York Times. “It carried that lipless look into pop culture to the point where we’re now struggling to get rid of it.”

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One piece of evidence that points to T. rex lips is that many have been found “encased in a thin layer of enamel.” Consistent exposure to open air would likely cause the teeth to be brittle like a crocodile’s. According to the Times, “an alligator can go through 3,000 teeth in its lifetime.”

How ‘Jurassic Park’ shaped the way we view T. rex dinosaurs

“Jurassic Park” — arguably one aspect of pop culture that has shaped what humans imagine dinosaurs like the most — is the one that makes a paleontologist at the University of Toronto Mississauga “groan and moan about the multitude of errors and inaccuracies,” per The Washington Post.

However, other paleontologists argue that fossils reveal the bare teeth were closer to what they resembled, per the Post.

This illustration provided by Mark P. Witton in March 2023 depicts two principal models of predatory dinosaur facial appearance: crocodilian-like lipless jaws, or a lizard-like lipped mouth. | Mark P. Witton via Associated Press

Fossil evidence and T. rex research

It is extremely difficult to depict the prehistoric creatures purely based on fossil evidence. But the study found that replacing teeth that were exposed would be extremely taxing on the dino’s body, so it’s more likely that lips covered the teeth, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“I think this is really one of the first times where researchers have put together multiple lines of evidence that would support theropods having these lips,” Jack Tseng, a University of California, Berkeley assistant professor of integrative biology, told WSJ about the research.

The findings opened up new questions to ask when looking to find out more about the iconic dinosaur.

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