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Greatest land predator ever didn't eat no stinking carrion
January 28, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

No Leftovers for Tyrannosaurus Rex: New Evidence That T. Rex Was Hunter, Not Scavenger [Full text]

Here we look at the feasibility of an adult T. rex being an obligate scavenger in the environmental conditions of Late Cretaceous North America, given the size distributions of sympatric herbivorous dinosaurs and likely competition with more abundant small-bodied theropods. We predict that nearly 50 per cent of herbivores would have been within a 55–85 kg range, and calculate based on expected encounter rates that carcasses from these individuals would have been quickly consumed by smaller theropods. Larger carcasses would have been very rare and heavily competed for, making them an unreliable food source. The potential carcass search rates of smaller theropods are predicted to be 14–60 times that of an adult T. rex. Our results suggest that T. rex and other extremely large carnivorous dinosaurs would have been unable to compete as obligate scavengers and would have primarily hunted large vertebrate prey, similar to many large mammalian carnivores in modern-day ecosystems.
posted by T.D. Strange (28 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
T.Rex doesn't want to be fed, he wants to hunt. Can't just suppress sixty five million years of gut instinct.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I distrust any scientific summary that begins "The findings end a long-running debate...". It looks fairly convincing, but I'd be surprised if the debate is over.
posted by meinvt at 9:40 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This spells bad news for getting my "paleontogolist" 3 year old to eat leftovers.
posted by DU at 9:44 AM on January 28, 2011


I mean, I like the science behind this, but is there any reason to think T. Rex didn't hunt and scavenge? Studies have found that a lot of animals we think of as scavengers also hunt (vultures, hyenas) and that a lot of animals we think of as hunters are also scavengers (lions "They also scavenge for food, and will frequently steal the kills of other predators").

I think human culture is just utterly fascinated by thinking of something as a hunter, a predator, a killer. Life isn't about killing; it's about surviving. We really need to dispel the notion that predators are superior.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:49 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


What;s the betting this doesn't end any debates?

Still, it's nice that Paleontologists have made a change to a dinosaur that makes it cool, rather than making it more like a giant turkey or somesuch.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


We really need to dispel the notion that predators are superior

Yeah, because I'd like to see a film where The Aliens win for a change.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:55 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


rather than making it more like a giant turkey or somesuch.

I think the 'feathers' debate is still ongoing...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:57 AM on January 28, 2011


DEAR SCIENCE: QUIT TOYING WITH MY EMOTIONS
posted by brand-gnu at 9:57 AM on January 28, 2011


I mean, I like the science behind this, but is there any reason to think T. Rex didn't hunt and scavenge?

First line of the [more inside]:

Here we look at the feasibility of an adult T. rex being an obligate scavenger...
posted by DU at 9:59 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


At least they aren't changing its name.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:59 AM on January 28, 2011


is there any reason to think T. Rex didn't hunt and scavenge?

Mostly I'm just spitballing here but considering its size and general physical makeup there's strong reason to think it would have needed a lot of food day to day, and I wouldn't imagine it would be super-picky about where that food came from. I'd imagine a species of that size would be more successful if it didn't have to rely exclusively on live prey.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:00 AM on January 28, 2011


Scientists have decided to declassify T. Rex as a planet.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:04 AM on January 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Calvin was right all along.
posted by logicpunk at 10:10 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I. Can. Finally. Sleep.
posted by jnnla at 10:22 AM on January 28, 2011


The treeosaur guy will be thrilled! Thanks for this link.
posted by dialetheia at 10:26 AM on January 28, 2011


The treeosaur guy will be thrilled! Thanks for this link.

What is this? I dont even...
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:31 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, they've decided that the T. Rex was doing the things that they said that he was doing when I was 8 years old: killing large herbivores that are too big to be killed by the smaller scavengers. I'm thinking it's a matter of time until someone figures that they went back to being big-ass scavengers, and then all decided to order out for the rest of the Cretaceous.
So, I agree with jabberjaw. The whole "black-or-white (not grey)", "this-or-that (not both)" thing is tiresome. Why can't they be both hunter and scavengers, you know, dirty and sweet, oh yeah?
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2011


I find it amusing that scientists get into such a snit about a creature that's been extinct for millions of years.

Hey paleontologists, I have evidence that T. Rex subsisted solely on CAKE. BUNDT CAKE.
posted by GuyZero at 10:43 AM on January 28, 2011


Mostly I'm just spitballing here but considering its size and general physical makeup there's strong reason to think it would have needed a lot of food day to day, and I wouldn't imagine it would be super-picky about where that food came from. I'd imagine a species of that size would be more successful if it didn't have to rely exclusively on live prey.

Yeah? How would you know?

posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:00 AM on January 28 [+] [!]

Oh. I see.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2011


My very uneducated theory on this would be to compare the T Rex, in its world, with the grizzly bear today. Top bad-ass. No one messes with it.

And grizzly bears scavenge as well as run down and kill their own food.

So I do not see why a T Rex would be any different, and if, say, it came upon a nice Hadrosaur of some kind being chewed on by some lesser meat eater, it could very well have driven that other dinosaur off, and maybe killed and eaten the other one, in the bargain.
posted by Danf at 11:01 AM on January 28, 2011


Well, bang a gong.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2011


I have evidence that it was actually a hi-hat.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:12 AM on January 28, 2011


I still wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley. Though now perhaps playing dead becomes a viable strategy.
posted by tommasz at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2011


I find it amusing that scientists get into such a snit about a creature that's been extinct for millions of years.

Well it sure beats the hell out of talking about Sarah Palin, The Tea Party, 3D movies, Roger Ebert, $_videogame, $_pixarmovie, and so on and so on.
posted by edgeways at 12:28 PM on January 28, 2011


Sixty-some million years in the future there will be vicious academic debates about which sort of carcasses Sarah Palin ate, and I regret that I will miss the snippy article abstracts.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:45 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Calvin & Hobbes has resolved this issue without the aid of "science."
posted by jabberjaw at 1:45 PM on January 28, 2011


I still say it's a giant kangaroo monster.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:26 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something tells me that even if scavengers beat him to the corpse T-Rex would get the last bites.

While the T-Rex seems physiologically tailor-made for predation, something tells me he wouldn't pass up a work-free buffet either.
posted by Alcibiades. at 4:10 PM on January 28, 2011


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