Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Was T-Rex a Scavenger?


I thought this was interesting, (from UC Berkley)


"A current topic in paleontology that has received much popular press is the question of whether T.rex (or other Tyrannosauridae in general) were predators or scavengers. Let's explore this issue.

Paleontologist Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, MT) has proposed that T.rex could not have been a predator. His arguments against predation include its small eyes (needed to see prey), small arms (needed to hold prey), huge legs (meaning slow speed) and that there is no evidence for predation — bones have been found with tyrannosaur teeth embedded in them or scratched by them, but so far no study has shown that tyrannosaurs killed other dinosaurs for food (a bone showing tyrannosaur tooth marks that had healed would be strong evidence for predation).

His evidence supporting scavenging include its large olfactory lobes (part of the brain used for smell), and that its legs were built for walking long distances (the thigh was about the size of the calf, as in humans). Vultures have large olfactory lobes and are good at soaring to cover long distances.

There are arguments against scavenging. Most large living predators (such as lions and hyenas) do scavenge meat happily when it is available, but most do prefer fresh meat. Horner argues that its arms were too weak to grab prey, but sharks, wolves, snakes, lizards and even many birds are successful predators without using their forelimbs (if any). Whether T.rex was a slow animal is tough to tell, as our dinosaur speeds page will tell you.

What is the public to think of all this? It is suggested that you make up your own mind; the fact is that reconstructing the behavior of extinct animals is difficult, especially when there are no close modern relatives with which to compare them. Tyrannosaurs may have been scavengers, predators or both; Horner is merely presenting an opposing argument that shows that we are not yet 100% sure what ecological niche the great tyrannosaurs filled."


I think -> Scavenger. I'm sure they would eat a wounded, but still living dinosaur, but their primarly diet would be dead stuff. With all those large plant eating dinosaurs, something would be needed to clean up the planet. The risk of injury when attacking a living herd animal would be too great. I remember seeing an amazing video of a herd of water buffalo attacking a group of lions who had taken one of the calves. The buffalo got the calf back!

11 comments:

Brooke said...

There is also talk of T-Rex being warm-blooded.

Farmer John said...

I'm convinced. Scavenger.

Eyes said...

Interesting Brooke... I wonder if they've extracted DNA from the bone they found in MT yet.. bloody marrow etc..

Hi FJ, ya that's what I'm thinking. It would be too dangerous for a hulk of a thing like that - with tiny arms - to tangle with the vegitarian herds.

As far as his comment about wolves not having 'arms', my dogs routinely use their front legs to bring down prey - albeit a knotted rope toy.

Farmer John said...

It was the nose and the standing upright part that convinced me. Hunters need to track their prey.

The Merry Widow said...

Good points, FJ! And a cleanup crew for large herbivores would fit the bill.

tmw

Eyes said...

Yep,,, not that they wouldn't kill living animals - but only if they were injured and not able to fight back - far from the herd.

cube said...

All good points RE: scavenger, but then there's that huge, toothy mouth. Hmmm, I think I shall ponder this dilemma further.

Eyes said...

Hi Cube, check out the Gelada baboons of Ethiopia:

http://pictures.traveladventures.org/images/simien-mountains01

grass eaters...

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Naat said...

A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you need to publish more on this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people do not talk about such issues. To the next! Best wishes!!