Interesting Facts about the Tyrannosaurus Rex
Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose name translates to "king of the tyrant lizards," is arguably one of the most famous dinosaurs ever to have lived. Human fascination with dinosaurs and large predators in general ensured that the 1902 discovery of the first known T. rex started over a century of interest in the giant beings. Forty feet long and capable of eating 500 pounds in a single bite, the adult T. rex was one of the largest land carnivores to ever exist.
Although they were approximately 40 feet long from head to toe, adult T. rex stood only 15-20 feet tall because of their bent-over running posture. They possessed extremely powerful hind limbs that supported them as they ran up to 15 miles per hour, but the tiny front limbs of a T. rex were likely useful only for grabbing items. These limbs were not even long enough to bring food to the dinosaur's mouth.
There are no complete T. rex skeletons known at this time. However, based on the skeletons that are known, scientists estimate that T. rex had approximately 200 bones, or around the same number as a human. T. rex had feet approximately 3.3 feet long, but it ran on its toes, leaving footprints about 1.5 feet long every 12 to 15 feet.
The dinosaur's 5-foot-long skull housed the 4-foot-long jaws that could take a 500-pound bite. It had conical teeth that could be used to latch onto prey and tear off the flesh. Because Tyrannosaurus rex had such weak, small forelimbs, it probably relied mostly on its heavily muscled neck to rip away bites from its prey. The jaws that could crush bone had no trouble holding on as the dinosaur thrashed its head to tear away chunks of meat.
It is obvious from the serrated teeth and massive jaw of known T. rex fossils that the dinosaur was a carnivore. It probably fed mostly on herbivorous dinosaurs that lived during the same period, including Triceratops. Scientists theorize that T. rex was a solitary hunter but would scavenge when the opportunity presented itself. There is also evidence that T. rex were cannibals, with the winners eating the losers in fights.
The skull of a T. rex has space for large olfactory bulbs. These are what determines how sensitive to smell an animal is, and they are much larger in an animal like a dog than in a human. This suggests that T. rex could smell extremely well, and probably hunted using this sense.
T. rex took a relatively long time to mature, reaching its teenage years at around the same time as a human. The growth spurt of a teenage T. rex probably started around the age of 10 to 12 years old, and continued until the dinosaur hit adulthood at 17 or 18. Juveniles were probably considerably faster and more agile than adults, which explains how they survived their likely-cannibalistic counterparts.
Tyrannosaurus rex lived approximately 67 to 65 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era. This part of the Mesozoic era was called the Cretaceous period. The mass extinction event that occurred approximately 65 million years ago was apparently when T. rex died out.
T. rex lived in what is now North America and ranged relatively widely across the U.S. At the time, this part of the world was an island continent called Laramidia. Other Tyrannasaurus species have been found in Mongolia and Canada, as well as across the U.S.
Tyrannosaurus model at a shopping expo in Florianópolis, Brazil.
Recent information suggests that T. rex adults weighed up to 9 tons. They might have put on nearly 4,000 pounds per year as teenagers in order to reach this weight, experts theorize. Scans done on the most complete known T. rex skeleton, known as Sue, were used to arrive at these figures. Sue herself is also the largest known T. rex, and was the one estimated to weigh about 9 tons.
In an interesting turn of events, scientists recently theorized that Sue may have died from a parasite infestation. Holes in her jawbone that were previously attributed to bites from another large carnivore may actually be where the parasite had eaten away at her, they say. A modern protozoa called Trichomonas causes similar lesions in birds, the modern-day relatives of dinosaurs like Sue, and eventually the affected animals starve to death.
Something else that has changed in recent years is the idea that Tyrannosaurus rex was scaly. It might have been, but there is no evidence that it necessarily was. Some of T. rex's cousins, including ones that were close in size, are now known to have had feathers. The paleontology community is undecided, but most agree that it is possible: T. rex might have been fluffy.
Oh yes, and we can't forget our friend's most famous role in Jurassic Park..