A Daspletosaurus (centre left), a close relative of T. rex that shared its way of moving, chases down a Spinops with a Coronasaurus (right) looking on in a handout ilustration. (Julius Csotonyi photo)

A Daspletosaurus (centre left), a close relative of T. rex that shared its way of moving, chases down a Spinops with a Coronasaurus (right) looking on in a handout ilustration. (Julius Csotonyi photo)

Not a sprint star: Research says T. rex was built for distance, not speed

T. rex’s long legs would have made that a very efficient 20 km/h, a pace that could be kept up for quite a while

Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the most feared predators in the Age of Dinosaurs, may have been built for endurance, not speed.

A paper published Wednesday takes recent research on how mammals move and applies it to dinosaurs. Its conclusions support theories that the massive meat-eaters hunted in packs and opens a window into the ecology of the ancient forests they roamed.

“We’re trying to figure out how much energy is going into and flowing through paleo ecosystems,” said Hans Larsson of Montreal’s McGill University, one of the paper’s co-authors.

“If we can’t get an estimate for what it takes to feed the apex predators, then we have no chance of estimating anything else.”

To figure out how much T. rex needed to eat, the scientists first had to figure out how it moved, including how fast it could run.

In the past, that’s been done using a formula based on hip height.

“That, coupled with body mass, can tell us a lot about speed,” said Larsson.

The problem is that an animal’s speed comes from many factors — the relative length of certain leg bones; whether it runs on its toes or its heels; its size.

Consider the elephant. Its hip height is lengthy, but a gazelle can run rings around it.

“Lots of other things come into play,” Larsson said.

“What we wanted to do was recalibrate … dinosaur speed using some really cool new papers that have come out using mammals, especially really large mammals.”

Larsson applied those papers to dinosaurs, bringing body mass into the calculation.

Earlier papers proposed T. rex could achieve speeds of up to 70 km/h — a lightning pace for an animal that would have weighed more than 10 tonnes. Larsson suggests its top end would have been closer to 20 km/h.

But, he adds, T. rex’s long legs would have made that a very efficient 20 km/h, a pace that could be kept up for quite a while.

Larsson asked what that could mean.

“If this were their mode of hunting, being able to go much greater distances at a pretty good clip, what kind of lifestyle would that be? The animals that do this today are ones, like wolves, that hunt in packs.”

Near Red Deer, Alta., a group of many large, meat-eating dinosaur fossils appear to be from members of a single flock.

“It’s pretty good evidence,” said Larsson.

Understanding how the top predator in the forests of the Cretaceous era moved and hunted allows scientists to also ask better questions about that ancient ecosystem.

How much food would T. rex have needed to move that huge body at that pace? How much prey would have had to have been available? What would that prey have needed to eat?

Answering those questions will have direct benefits for modern biology, Larsson said.

“Some of the fundamental questions on current ecosystems are still not there. In most cases, we don’t even know what the food web is.”

Rebuilding an ancient food web from sketchy fossil records could give science a road map to find its way through the incredible complexity of a living forest, he said.

“We can start off with a paleo ecosystem and start developing ideas that can be used to begin tackling these questions in living ecosystems. The data become far simpler.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Science

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First time author Stacey Chomiak is releasing Still Stace in October, 2021. (Special to The News)
First time Maple Ridge author illustrates and writes about reconciling her faith and sexuality

Stacey Chomiak is branching out from a successful career in animation

The speculation and vacancy tax declaration must be filled out by the end of March. (The News files)
SVT declaration packages en route to homeowners in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

A penalty will apply to those, not exempted, who don’t pay by due date

COVID-19. (Pixabay)
COVID-19 exposure at Westview in Maple Ridge

Third high school reporting virus in 2021

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

(Realtor.ca)
Rent dropped to 2019 rates across parts of Metro Vancouver in December: Rentals.ca report

Rent costs have declined since May, a trend expected to continue due in part to the COVID pandemic

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Most Read