It’s funny how a small detail can utterly redefine something enormous. The collective consciousness of humanity imagines dinosaurs as scaly, leathery beasts with fangs constantly protruding through lipless sneers. And considering how many Jurassic Parks/Worlds/Boat Shows we line up for, that visualization isn’t going to change. We like our ancient killing machines fast, cold, and inhuman, no matter how much proof we find that most of them had fuzzy down feathers, or colorful skin patterns.
Still, Robert Reisz, a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in vertebrate paleontology, comes close to shattering that illusion in the smallest of ways. Reisz is presenting research that suggests that dinosaurs, contrary to popular depiction, had lips that cover their gargantuan fangs. You know, lips. Those rubbery things that make duckface at us in selfies. That undulate on our face when we’re chewing. That, for the most part, actually make us look approachable and friendly, even vivacious.
Reisz is arguing that tooth fossils from lipless creatures typically have their enamel stripped away thanks to constant exposure to the elements, which isn’t the case for the majority of dinosaur teeth that paleontologists discover. Hence, dinosaurs had lips that sheltered their teeth.
Perhaps Jurassic World 2 will take advantage of Reisz’s research, and depict a T-Rex capable of blowing a kiss to Chris Pratt? Or perhaps that image will stay where it is: safely within my nightmares.