Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tyrannosaurus rex was a Hunter

There are risks to being a scavenger - picking up parasites or disease-causing microorganisms, and not being able to find food or get to it quickly because of distance are issues faced by scavengers. Predators on the other hand have to locate and kill prey - skills that require time and patience. While most large carnivores combine scavening and hunting a few specialize, doing one or the other. There has been a debate over the feeding habits of Tyrannosaurus rex - was it a scavenger or a hunter? Chris Carbone of the Zoological Society of London and colleagues have addressed this question in a new paper. What follows is a press release from the Proceedings of the Roloyal Society B. The full article can be found on-line. Just click the link below.

T.rex hunted like a lion, rather than regularly scavenging like a hyena, reveals new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The findings end a long-running debate about the hunting behaviour of this awesome predator.

Scientists from ZSL used an ecological model based on predator relationships in the Serengeti to determine whether scavenging would have been an effective feeding strategy for T.rex.

Previous attempts to answer the question about T.rex’s hunting behaviour have focused on its morphology. The flaw in this approach is that two species can possess similar physical features and still have very different hunting strategies, such as vultures and eagles.

Lead author Dr Chris Carbone, says “By understanding the ecological forces at work, we have been able to show that scavenging was not a viable option for T.rex as it was out-competed by smaller, more abundant predatory dinosaurs.

“These smaller species would have discovered carcasses more quickly, making the most of ‘first-come-first-served’ opportunities.”

Like polar bears and lions, the authors conclude that an individual T.rex would have roamed over large distances to catch its prey, potentially areas several times the size of Greater London.

This research now opens the door to look at the behaviour of T.rex as a hunter.

Carbone, C., S. T. Turvey, and J. Bielby. 2011. Intra-guild competition and its implications for one of the biggest terrestrial preadtors, Tyrannosaurus rex. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2497

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