Tyrannosaurus rex
Tyrannosaurus rex may have been able to bite down with four times more force than previous estimates - making the king of dinosaurs even deadlier. Reuters

The already fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur may have been even deadlier than previously thought.

The extinct T. rex bit 10 times harder than a modern alligator and four times harder than previously calculated, according to a computer model of the dinosaur generated by researchers from the University of Liverpool.

This newfound force means the T. rex had the strongest bite of any land animal ever. Getting bitten by one would have felt like being sat on by an elephant, the authors wrote.

I have no idea what the bite would do to an animal beyond hurt a lot, Karl Bates, co-author of the study and post-doctoral researcher in biomechanics at the University of Liverpool, told Discovery News. The force is obviously much higher than alligators and lions and you wouldn't want to be bitten by either of those.

The strength of the bite didn't start out that strong though. Juvenile T. rexes probably had a much weaker bite, making it likely that the dinosaur's diet changed over time, the authors wrote. Younger members of the species would eat smaller prey until their bite force became strong enough to puncture the skin of other dinosaurs.

I think everyone expected T. rex to have a strong bite force, but it's even stronger than we expected, Bill Sellers, a computational zoologist at the University of Manchester who was not involved in the study, told BBC. And it gets stronger as it gets bigger, which is surprising.

Bite force is measured in Newtons, a unit of measurement named after physicist Sir Issac Newton, famous for formulating the theory of gravity. A Newton is defined as the amount of force required to accelerate a mass of one kilogram one meter per second squared.

A T. rex would have been capable of biting down with a force of 35,000 to 57,000 Newtons with its back teeth, according to the study. Great white sharks can bite down with a force of 20,000 Newtons, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Zoology. Humans are capable of biting down with less than 1,000 Newtons.

But even with that amount of crushing power, the T. rex doesn't hold the distinction for the most powerful jaws. That distinction belongs to the ancient megalodon sharks, according to National Geographic.

Megalodons lived between 1.5 million and 28 million years ago, and may have grown to be 50 feet (16 meters) long. The extinct sharks could bite with a force three times stronger than that of a T. rex - 105,000 to 171,000 Newtons - according to National Geographic.

Biology Letters published the study on Wednesday.