Although we now know the tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t the very biggest carnivorous beast to walk the Earth (spinosaurus has claimed that title) it remains dinosaur royalty. From battling King Kong to attempting to eat Jeff Goldblum, the T. rex is one of the go-to villains in popular culture. The name literally means “tyrant lizard king,” and here we will look at ten fascinating facts about one of the most terrifying creatures ever to stalk the planet.
10. We haven’t yet found a complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton
Owing to their position as an apex predator at the very top of the food chain, there aren’t all that many T. rex fossils out there to find. So far, about fifty skeletons have been discovered and none of these are entirely complete. Amongst the most impressive is a T. rex called Sue, named after the woman who found the bones on federally owned land in South Dakota. In her prime, Sue would have stood more than 13 feet tall and weighed in at something in the region of 9 tons. She was also the subject of a lengthy and complicated legal battle as described in the 2014 documentary “Dinosaur 13.”
The first person who does manage to lay claim to a complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton is likely to become very wealthy indeed. Sue, despite only being 85% complete, sold at auction for $8 million. Another significant find of an almost complete tyrannosaur, discovered along with a triceratops, attracted bids of $5.5 million but didn’t sell, as even that failed to meet the reserve price.
9. Hunter or scavenger?
Although it may be the most famous of all dinosaurs, there is still a great deal we don’t know about tyrannosaurus rex. One of the biggest areas of contention through the years has been whether it was a hunter or scavenger.
In 2007, the discovery of a remarkable fossil may have finally settled the question once and for all. The fossil was of a hadrosaur, a large plant eating dinosaur, which was found to have a T. rex tooth embedded in its spine. The bone had grown back around the tooth, indicating that the animal must have been alive when a T. rex took a lump out of it but had been lucky enough to survive the attack.
Whether the T. rex hunted or scavenged for its food most likely isn’t an either/or question. Like modern day lions and tigers, the tyrant lizard king probably wasn’t above scavenging should the opportunity of a free meal present itself.
8. T. rex may have had the most powerful bite of any creature to walk the Earth
It’s not easy to determine just how powerful the bite of an animal that has been extinct for 65 million years may have been. However, scientists at Liverpool University believe they have come up with an answer. Musculoskeletal biologist Karl Bates and his colleagues developed a computer model which enabled them to compare the T. rex with some modern day carnivores. Their results showed that the bite of a tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t just powerful – it was more powerful than anybody had expected.
An adult male lion can chomp down on its prey with a force of around 4450 Newtons, but that’s little more than a tickle compared to a large tyrannosaurus rex, which could manage as much as 60,000 Newtons. This apex predator even boasted a bite three times as powerful as a great white shark and would have been rivalled only by the biggest of marine predators like megalodon and Predator X.
7. Those puny arms were stronger than you might think
Powerful and terrifying as it might have been, the T. rex has suffered plenty of ridicule over the years on account of its tiny arms. At around a metre long, they do look a touch silly on a dinosaur bigger than a school bus, and they certainly weren’t much use for feeding as they couldn’t even reach its mouth. However, many scientists believe T. rex’s arms were far from useless and it may have used them to grapple with prey or help it clamber up off the ground.
Research suggests the T. rex may have been able to lift around 450 pounds with each arm. That may not be a huge amount for a dinosaur that stood up to twenty feet tall and weighed in at around 8 tons, but it’s easily enough to beat even the strongest of humans in an arm wrestling contest.
6. They may have hunted in packs
For a long time it was thought tyrannosaurus rex was a solitary beast, stalking the prehistoric plains alone and unloved. This opinion is now being challenged, and many scientists have come to believe they were social creatures, living and hunting in packs.
Bones from multiple tyrannosaurs have been found in one location on a few occasions, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate they lived together. The animals could have been drawn in by a predator trap or the remains drawn together by some other event after their deaths. However, a recent discovery in Canada revealed tracks of at least three tyrannosaurs moving parallel to each other ,the strongest indication yet that T. rex may have been a pack hunter.
Working together may have benefitted the tyrannosaurs by allowing them to tackle larger victims. The smaller, faster, and more agile juvenile T. rex may have ran down the prey allowing their larger colleagues to move in and deliver the killer bite.
5. It might just be possible to resurrect a T. rex (or something a lot like one)
Science has now reached the point where it is possible to take cells from an animal that died decades ago and bring them back to life. There is even some talk of bringing back relatively recently extinct animals like the passenger pigeon and perhaps even the woolly mammoth. But could it be possible for us to resurrect dinosaurs, like the tyrannosaurus rex, that have been extinct for millions of years? Surprisingly, the answer might just be yes.
In Jurassic Park this scientific marvel was achieved using DNA extracted from the blood found in mosquitoes preserved in amber. This particular method won’t work, DNA breaks down after a maximum of 6.3 million years, which might be a hell of a long time but not long enough for us to get our hands on the genetic building blocks of a T. rex. However, there might just be another option.
To the amazement of the scientific world, a T. rex leg bone was recently discovered to contain a small amount of soft tissue. Although the DNA is now useless, it is possible to examine the proteins within the tissue. This has led to speculation from respected scientists, such as Michio Kaku, that it might just be possible to reverse engineer something very similar to a dinosaur from their modern day relatives. In other words, we could turn a chicken into a tyrannosaur.
4. They could see you if you moved
If it does turn out to be possible to resurrect a T. rex then the chances are that someone, perhaps this guy, will decide the world needs more apex predators the size of a house. When that happens, science fiction tells us it’s only a matter of time before they break free and run amok.
Whilst it shouldn’t keep you awake at night, this means there is an ever so tiny chance you might come face to face with a tyrannosaur looking to turn you into brunch. If you paid attention during Jurassic Park then you might decide your best chance of survival would be to stand dead still, after all the movie told us T. rex’s vision was based on movement. The movie was wrong. T. rex could see just fine whether something was moving or not, otherwise it would have clumsily stumbled about the place stubbing its toes on boulders and bumping into trees.
In fact, according to Professor Kent Stevens of the University of Oregon, tyrannosaurus rex’s vision was far sharper than our own and may even have been superior to that of an eagle.
So what would be the best course of action when faced with a hungry T. rex? Well, estimates as to the tyrant lizard king’s speed vary from anywhere between 10 and 40kph, so it would probably be wise to run away screaming and hope for the best.
3. Their metabolism may have been similar to that of mammals
The T. rex fossils which have been discovered to date show that these dinosaurs led hard and violent lives. We have already seen that Sue the T. rex left behind the most complete skeleton yet discovered for this type of dinosaur. A closer look at her bones reveal the punishment this T. rex endured in her quest to survive.
She had fractures to both sides of her rib cage, evidence of a broken right arm and shoulder blade, and a serious wound to the lower leg which had caused the bone to expand to twice its normal size. The injuries were most likely sustained as she attempted to subdue large prey or during mating, which would almost certainly have been a violent affair for these gigantic predators.
According to Annette Trinity-Stevens of Montana State University, the way Sue’s bones healed is more consistent with modern mammals than that of reptiles. This is strong evidence that the T. rex may have been a warm blooded rather than a cold blooded killer.
2. They had a septic bite
We know that the T. rex had a bite powerful enough to make a pretty big hole in any animal unfortunate enough to get in the way. However, even those dinosaurs lucky escape the tyrant lizard king with just a flesh wound would have still been in serious trouble.
Scientists examining the teeth of the T. rex have noticed the striking similarities to that of modern day komodo dragons. The serrations and grooves would have caused food particles to get stuck and provided a perfect breeding ground for a whole host of unpleasant bacteria. Not only would this have resulted in a serious case of bad breath but, like the komodo dragon, the T. rex probably passed on some of its bacteria to anything it took a nibble on. If the prey animal was robust enough it might manage to recover from the infection; if not the T. rex would be able to track down its meal hours or days later, thanks to its extraordinary sense of smell.
1. There were other species of tyrannosaur
Tyrannosaurus rex, the fearsome tyrant lizard king that roamed the plains of North America some 65 million years ago, is undoubtedly the most famous tyrannosaur. However, T. rex did have several long-lost relatives scattered around the globe.
One of these, dubbed the pygmy tyrannosaur despite still measuring in at a hefty twenty feet from snout to tail, even managed to make a living in the Arctic. Although the region would have been significantly warmer in the cretaceous period than today, it would have still presented a considerable challenge for such an animal. There would have been long periods of darkness and seasons where a decent meal would have been very difficult to obtain. However, dinosaurs were tough old beasts, and if it hadn’t been for the K-T comet colliding with the Earth, evolution would have surely followed a very different path, and the chances are you wouldn’t have been around to read this list today.
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