The media has displayed things of the past many times, whether in a realistic way or purely fictitious for entertainment. Dinosaurs are the most common look into the past, and producers usually try to make the dinosaurs as accurate as possible. The Jurassic Park franchise is an excellent example of this.
Media has typically shown the dinosaur with teeth that are not covered when its mouth is closed. Paleontologists thought the Tyrannosaurus Rex (T. Rex) had no lips, leaving their teeth open to the elements much like a crocodile’s. However, studies have shown that could have been wrong. Although some thought the predator’s teeth were just too big to fit in their mouth, Thomas Cullen, an Assistant Professor at Auburn University and paleontologist, said that wasn’t the case when the skulls of dinosaurs were compared to living reptiles. Some lizards have larger teeth than a T. Rex’s compared to their skull, but their teeth are still concealed under their lips. Some clues leading to the new conclusion were found in the deterioration pattern on the fossil’s teeth. If a T. Rex were to have exposed teeth, the exposed part of the tooth would have worn down very quickly, as a crocodile’s teeth do. When analyzing a Daspletosaurus tooth, a relative of the T. Rex, the tooth was found without the uneven wear and tear patterns it would have shown if it didn’t have lips. Paleontologist Thomas Holts from the University of Maryland wasn’t involved with these studies, but he did say that the evidence from them, along with other anatomical clues, made a good case for the dinosaur to have lips. He also pointed out that the lips would be like that of a Komodo dragon, one of the largest living lizards in the world.
However, some scientists are skeptical of the new studies. Vertebrae paleontologist Thomas Carr said, “I think the day will arrive where somebody will find a fossil mommy of a Tyrannosaur. But in the meantime, we won’t truly know.” He is not the only one dismissive of the new studies. Ashley Morhardt, a paleontologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, pointed out that the research group was small, comprising of one dinosaur tooth and one crocodile tooth, meaning the results could be biased. She had said it was a good start in the research, “But I’m afraid we will need more data to say anything confidently about the dinosaur ‘lip debate.’” However, Mark Witton, a paleoartist at England’s University of Portsmouth, said that adding lips made the Dinosaurs feel more realistic. “You don’t really see a monster. You see an animal,” he said.
There are many different stances on this scientific debate, and there is still a long way to go to discover the truth, but research studies are a good first step. More research and analysis will occur in the future, eventually leading to a definitive answer to the question presented here.