12 Things You Might Not Know About T. rex

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The world’s most famous dinosaur is a lot more interesting than many people realize. Some 65 million years after its extinction, Tyrannosaurus rex is still captivating scientists, movie makers, and the general public alike. Here’s some neat stuff you might not know about the “tyrant lizard king.”

1. Those Arms Weren’t So Puny After All.

T. rex’s supposedly wimpy arms have become a prehistoric punch line, but according to paleontologist Jack Conrad, this misconception needs to go extinct. “The bicep alone—and this is a conservative estimate—could curl 430 pounds,” he said. For more, check out this entertaining video courtesy of Earth Unplugged:

2. Adult Rexes Might’ve Been Covered In Feathers

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Fluffy dinosaur skeletons are nothing new, but until recently many assumed feathers were the exclusive property of smaller dinosaur species. That all changed with the discovery of Yutyrannus huali in 2012. This Chinese T. rex relative reached an impressive length of over 25 feet and sported six-inch feathers which covered much of its body. The find has raised the very serious possibility that the Tyrannosaurus might have had some fuzzy feathers of its own.

3. T. rex Was Almost Re-Named Manospondylus gigas

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“Manospondylus gigas” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. However, the rules of scientific naming usually dictate that the discoverer of a new species earns the naming rights. This caused a brief debate when it was revealed in 1999 that fossil hunter Edward Drinker Cope had unearthed a T. rex vertebrae, which he dubbed “Manospondylus gigas,” some 13 years before the word “Tyrannosaurus” was ever coined. Some scientists felt that “M. gigas” should replace “T. rex” as the dino’s official moniker. The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), which dictates such matters, later ruled that because “Tyrannosaurus rex” had been a valid name for over 50 years, it warranted special protected status.

4. T. rex Had Excellent Vision

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The lizard king had darn good eyesight by dinosaur standards thanks to special adaptations in its skull. Like humans and birds of prey, T. rex had “binocular vision,” meaning its eyes looked directly forward and their planes of vision overlapped, enhancing the beast’s depth perception capabilities.

5. Tyrannosaurs May Have Practiced Cannibalism

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Over the years, many Tyrannosaurus skeletal remains have been found with tell-tale bite marks that most likely came from other T. rexes, although it’s impossible to determine if this was the result of scavenging or predation.

6. Juveniles Grew Up Quick

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Talk about a teenage growth spurt. Research conducted in 2004 indicates that between ages 14 and 18, young “rexes” would gain a whopping five pounds per day.  

7. A Prime Specimen Was Once Sold For Over $8 Million

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The whirlwind saga of “Sue” the T. rex (nicknamed in honor of paleontologist Sue Hendrickson) still sends shockwaves throughout the paleontological community. Her skeleton was over 90 percent complete, a true rarity by fossilization standards—which was made all the more unlikely by Sue’s immense size (she was roughly 42 feet long from end to end). Her discovery prompted an intense legal battle which resulted in the Tyrannosaurus being put up for auction in 1997. The Chicago Field Museum teamed up with McDonald’s and the Disney Corporation to bring her to the Windy City at a cost of $8.36 million, keeping this one-of-a-kind specimen available to the public.

8. The Chase Scene in Jurassic Park Probably Couldn’t Have Happened

In the film, a Tyrannosaurus is seen charging at 45 miles per hour in hot pursuit of a jeep. Thrilling as this scene was, in order for such a massive animal to reach those speeds, 86 percent of its muscle content would have to be concentrated in its legs, an anatomical impossibility.  For more, check this out.

9. Contrary to What You Might’ve Heard, T. rex Was, In All Likelihood, Both a Hunter and a Scavenger

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“Was T. rex a ferocious hunter or a lowly scavenger?” is an oft-asked dino question, much to the chagrin of many paleontologists. Most modern carnivores dine on carcasses and live prey alike, and—despite sensationalist headlines like this one—there’s no reason to assume that Tyrannosaurus didn’t behave likewise. As science writer Brian Switek recently put it, “there was never any legitimate debate on this point. Our beloved T. rex was undoubtedly a predator and a scavenger, and the ongoing fascination with the dinosaur’s reputation has a lot more to do with muddled media than science.”

10. The World’s First Known T. rex Footprint Might Have Been Found At A Boy Scout Camp

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Unless a prehistoric animal literally dies in its tracks, we can’t determine the exact identity of its maker when a fossilized footprint is discovered. However, a gigantic footprint was unearthed at the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico in 1983 by geologist Charles Pillmore. Because of its striking similarities to the T. rex's distinctive feet, the scientific community has tentatively concluded that it was most likely produced by an adult Tyrannosaurus.

11. Buffalo, South Dakota is the Self-Described “T. rex Capital of the World”

At least seven T. rex skeletons have been unearthed near this sleepy town of 330. Notable Buffalo rexes include a large specimen affectionately called “Stan” and a famous individual known as “Samson,” which was briefly put up for sale on eBay (though it failed to meet the sellers’ multi-million-dollar asking price).

12. You Can See A “Mating T. rex” Display in Spain

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When both parties weigh several tons, consummating a relationship can be a daunting task. Located in northern Spain, the Jurassic Museum of Asturias features a series of extensive dinosaur exhibits, one of which includes two Tyrannosaurus skeleton replicas mounted in a very speculative sex position.

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March 7, 2014 - 11:00am
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