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Study Disputes Claims That T. Rex Was A Scavenger

January 26, 2011

A new chapter in the dispute over the Tyrannosaurus rex’s eating habits was written on Wednesday, as scientists with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) published a new study they say confirms that it was, in fact, a hunter and not a scavenger.

Their findings, which were published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, “end a long-running debate about the hunting behavior of this awesome predator,” officials from the ZSL said in a press release on Tuesday.

While previous attempts to confirm T. rex’s predatory behavior focused on morphology, lead author Dr. Chris Carbone and colleagues from the ZSL instead utilized “an ecological model based on predator relationships in the Serengeti to determine whether scavenging would have been an effective feeding strategy for T.rex,” the press release said.

“By understanding the ecological forces at work, we have been able to show that scavenging was not a viable option for T.rex as it was out-competed by smaller, more abundant predatory dinosaurs,” Carbone said in a statement. “These smaller species would have discovered carcasses more quickly, making the most of ‘first-come-first-served’ opportunities.”

Some paleontologists, including Jack Horner at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, have argued that the T. rex had to have been a scavenger because of its “bulky legs, apparently poor eyesight and pathetic forearms,” Ian Sample of the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Even though the dinosaur possessed sharp teeth and a well-muscled build, those features would have kept it from being an effective hunter, Horner and other like-minded scientists assert.

However, study co-author Sam Turvey told Sample that their calculations prove that it was “effectively impossible” for the Tyrannosaurus rex “to have fed solely or almost completely on carcasses of dead animals,” because the dinosaur “lived in an ecosystem with a large number of smaller-bodied carnivorous dinosaur species and it couldn’t have relied on carcasses for its diet.”

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