T.rex - scavenger or hunter?

26 January 2011

New research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B settles the long-running debate over how Tyrannosaurus rex obtained its food, revealing that the iconic dinosaur was in all likelihood a hunter rather than a scavenger.

Previous attempts to answer this question have focused on T.rex’s physical characteristics (such as disproportionally short arms and upright stance) – however, the flaw in this approach is that hunters and scavengers can actually possess similar physical features despite having very different hunting strategies.  For this paper, scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) took a different approach, using an ecological model based on predator relationships in the Serengeti.
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.