Tongue in cheek
The fierce Tyrannosaurus rex or T. rex lashing out its tongue like a lizard in the recent film Jurassic World as it is about to devour its prey is probably a "wrong" reconstruction as many of the dinosaurs were tongue-tied.
Meaning, their tongues were firmly anchored to the floors of their mouths and unable to waggle around—much like an alligator or crocodile, says a study published in PLOS ONE.
Researchers examined over 330 fossil specimens of the hyoid—horseshoeshaped bony structures between the chin and neck that anchor the tongue in the mouth— of small bird-like dinosaurs, large planteating dinosaurs, flying pterosaurs and the iconic T. rex and compared them with high-resolution photos they took of 13 modern bird species and three alligators.
Most dinosaurs the team studied had short and simple hyoids, similar to those of alligators and crocodiles, that have a "tear and gulp" approach to eating their food in which they don't chew much, and therefore don't need a particularly long or mobile tongue. The tongues of the T. rex and other dinosaurs were likely similarly short and simple. Birds, by contrast, have very diverse and complex tongues.
The study also proposes a connection between the origin of flight and an increase in tongue dexterity.