Spend any time watching a cartoon of read a book about dinosaurs and you’ll see some hapless dinosaur become the night’s meal for a Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, what we didn’t know is that the undisputed king of the dinosaurs ate each other.
While looking for evidence for an entirely separate study, Yale researcher Nick Longrich found large gouges in the bone of a T. rex. Given the age and location of the fossil, the marks had to be made by another T. rex.
“They’re the kind of marks that any big carnivore could have made,” said Longrich, “but T. rex was the only big carnivore in western North America 65 million years ago.”
Longrich continued to search for other signs of T. rex cannibalisation and found a total of three foot bones and one arm bone that showed signs of being chobbled on by another T. rex, which, considering the amount of fossils we have represents a significant percentage.
“It’s surprising how frequent it appears to have been,” Longrich said. “We’re not exactly sure what that means.”
The marks on the bones are conclusively the result of feeding, but whether the cannibalisation was a result of the behemoth’s fighting each other to the death, or simply that of scavenging for food, is unknown.
“Modern big carnivores do this all the time,” he said. “It’s a convenient way to take out the competition and get a bit of food at the same time.”
These findings are an unlooked-for clue into the lives of one of the more obscured dinosaurs. “These animals were some of the largest terrestrial carnivores of all time, and the way they approached eating was fundamentally different from modern species,” Longrich said. “There’s a big mystery around what and how they ate, and this research helps to uncover one piece of the puzzle.”