October 7, 2009
Rare Evidence Of Dinosaur Cannibalism
University of Alberta researcher Phil Bell has found 70 million year old evidence of dinosaur cannibalism.
The jawbone of what appears to be a Gorgosaurus was found in 1996 in southern Alberta. A technician at the Royal Tyrell Museum found something unusual embedded in the jaw. It was the tip of a tooth from another meat-eating dinosaur.
Bell, a paleontology PhD candidate, says discovery of the tooth shows that a fight between two dinosaurs definitely took place. "The wound showed no signs of healing so we know the dinosaur died soon after it was inflicted." Bell says that leaves two possible storylines. "Either the attacker fought, killed and ate this dinosaur, or the victim was already dead." Either way, if the attacker and the victim were the same species, Bell has a rare case of dinosaur cannibalism.
Analysis of the wound in the jawbone showed the bite was applied with the same force as a two ton great white shark. "Sharks are a good analogue for this research," said Bell. "Their teeth frequently break off in an attack and become lodged in the victim."
The fossil record shows that Gorgosaurus, a 10-metre long cousin of the bigger, more famous, Tyrannosaurus rex, outnumbered other meat-eating dinosaurs in the area. That leads Bell to believe it's likely the attacker and the victim were both Gorgosaurus dinosaurs, making this a case of cannibalism.
There is only one proven case of dinosaur cannibalism. That evidence was found in Madagascar in 2007.
Bell and co-author, U of A paleontology professor Phil Currie, published their findings this month in the journal Lethaia.
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