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T. rex's Diet
T. rex was a meat-eater and was at the top of the food chain in its environment. It probably chased its prey and took huge bites of their flesh, mortally wounded the prey, then devoured it. Its huge jaws and powerful, clawed legs were its lethal weapons. T. rex's tiny arms may not have played much of a part in the kill.
Scavenger or Hunter?
Some paleontologists (notably Jack Horner) have recently begun to question whether T. rex could have been an effective hunter, given its small eyes, puny arms, and relatively slow gait (Note: many other paleontologists think that T. rex had good eyesight and was a relatively fast dinosaur.) Horner's alternative theory is that T. rex scavenged its food from other animals' kills.
Scavengers need a good sense of smell (to find meat) and means of long-distance locomotion (to get to the meat). There is evidence that T.rex had an acute sense of smell (deduced from room in its skull for large olfactory lobes in its brain). Also, T. rex's large legs would provide ample means of long-distance locomotion.
There are arguments against this scavenger hypothesis. Dr. Kenneth Carpenter (then at the Denver Museum of Natural History) found a healed T. rex tooth mark on the tail of a hadrosaur (a duck-billed dinosaur). This is evidence that T. rex was an active predator, and not simply a scavenger. Why else would T. rex bite a duck-billed dinosaur?
Other arguments against the scavenger hypothesis are that small eyes do not necessarily imply poor vision. Birds (dinosaurs' descendants) have relatively small eyes but acute vision. As for T. rex's puny arms, arms are not necessary for predation; many predators have no arms at all, like sharks and snakes. As for T. rex's gait (speed), there were many animals that were slower than T. rex; these would become its prey, not the speedier types.
Fossilized T. rex Dung Found
Triceratops was hunted and eaten by T. rex.
|A coprolite (fossilized feces) from a T. rex was recently found in Saskatchewan, Canada by a team led by Karen Chin. This 65 million year old specimen contains chunks of bones from an herbivorous (plant-eating) dinosaur which was eaten by the T. rex. This bone fragment is perhaps part of the head frill of a Triceratops, a three-horned plant eater.
The coprolite (fossilized dung) is a whitish-green rock that is 17 inches (44 cm) long, 6 inches (15 cm) high and 5 inches (13 cm) wide. Since it contains bones, it is from a theropod (the meat-eating dinosaurs). The coprolite is assumed to be from T. rex because of its huge size (this is the largest coprolite ever found from a meat-eater). T. rex is the only meat-eating dinosaur from that time and place which could have produced such large dung. This fossil privdes evidence that T. rex crushed bones before swallowing them, since the bones in this coprolite were broken up.
(ref. Chin, K. . . . G.M. Erickson, et al. 1998. A king-sized theropod coprolite. Nature 393 (June 18):680 )
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