Of all the dinosaurs known to mankind, it is the Tyrannosaurus Rex or T.rex that captures our imagination the most, probably because it was the biggest and fiercest of them all. Now, a new study claims that we may have underestimated its size and weight by as much as, 30 percent!
The new measurements, a collaborative effort between British and American paleontologists, were calculated using scans of the actual skeletons of five T.rex fossils and are therefore deemed to be more accurate than the previous estimates, which were based on scale models.
The researchers began with Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History resident SUE - the largest, most complete and most preserved T-Rex fossil ever found. While the city's police department was able to scan the dinosaur's body using forensic scanners, SUE's skull, which measures a whopping 3.3 feet across and 5 feet long, was too big for normal scanners. Undaunted, the scientists took it for a little field trip, to a nearby Ford Car manufacturing plant where it was scanned using a machine, normally reserved for engines.
Once similar scans had been done on all five T-Rex skeletal remains, the team superimposed digital skins so that they could estimate the body volume more accurately. In order to get it as close to the real measurements as possible, they also separated each body part like the head, tail etc. and digital skin-wrapped them individually. Then, they added in estimates for the missing body parts like lungs, hearts and so on.
Since they had no idea how much fat each of the specimens carried when they stomped around the Earth, they modeled two sets of possible weights - one with skin sticking to the remains, the other, assuming more fat between the two layers. This gave them a lower and higher weight estimate.
What they discovered was that all of them were much bigger and heavier than had originally been thought. However, the biggest surprise was SUE. The original estimates put her somewhere between 4.5 - 6.0 tons. New estimates? A whopping 9 tons or about 18,000 pounds - And that, was the minimum weight!
Once they had figured out how big the adults may have been, the researchers focused their attention on the timing of the growth spurt. Beginning with a base case that the dinosaur baby was about 11 pounds when born, they started with the skeleton remains of a juvenile T.rex and then inched their way to the adults. What they deduced was that the dinosaurs went through two major growth spurts - one when they were between 10-12 years old and the second between the ages of 17-18. During both periods the scientists estimate that they piled on as much as 3,950lbs a year - More than twice the original estimates!
However, being bigger wasn't better for these lumbering creatures. Thanks to the fact that most of the growth and weight occurred on their torso, while the legs remained relatively short, T-Rex's became slower and less agile as they aged - Just like us humans, except they were probably more impressive and ferocious to look at, then most human adults.
Resources csmonitor.com, dailymail.co.uk