Fearsome T-rex was a plodder not a
sprinter, researchers say
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[July 22, 2017]
By Matthew J. Stock
LONDON (Reuters) - Line up Usain Bolt at
the starting blocks with a Tyrannosaurus rex and the dinosaur would be
left behind in the sprinter's dust, according to computer-assisted
research that turns long-held assumptions on their head.
While the running ability of T-rex has been hotly debated among
palaeontologists for decades, the consensus from previous biomechanical
models was that the Cretaceous-era carnivore could manage speeds of up
to 45 mph (75 kmh).
That's more than half as fast again as the quickest man in history.
But because of its size and weight, the predator would actually have
broken its legs had it tried to break into a sprint, the University of
Manchester research showed.
"The muscles need to be able to generate sufficient power to allow
high-speed locomotion, but at the same time the skeleton has to be able
to cope with the loads generated by the high speed," said Professor
William Sellers from the university's School of Earth and Environmental
"...This is where it fails. T-rex's skeleton is simply not strong enough
for running locomotion," he told Reuters.
Researchers used an engineering technique called multibody dynamic
analysis, coupled with machine learning, to produce what they say is the
most accurate simulation of T-rex's gait and biomechanics to date.
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They concluded that T-rex was limited to walking speeds of about 5
meters/second, equating to 12 mph (18 kmh) -- less than half the
speed of Usain Bolt's personal best of 27.8 mph.
A study published in Royal Society journal Biological Sciences in
2007 suggested an at that time conservative top speed of 18 mph -
still fast enough to chase down top runners over longer distances.
Sellers said his study had forced a re-think on how T-rex caught its
"It certainly would not have been able to chase down faster-moving
prey animals," said Sellers. "That leaves other hunting options such
as ambush, and of course it means that (discredited) ideas such as
'T-rex the scavenger' have to be reconsidered."
(Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; editing by John Stonestreet)
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