Tyrannosaurus rex

100 years ago this month the American Museum of Natural History placed the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil, AMNH 5027, on public display. This week an exquisite new specimen of T. rex has been revealed at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin as well. To honor Tyrannosaurus rex I offer this illustration.

This is AMNH 5027 when she was about a month old. From just days after she hatched she foraged in her father’s territory, which was a riparian woodland. She had the best luck in the thickets that grew on the riverbanks. It was the rainy season, and many other animals were hatching as well. She fed on large insects, turtles, crocodilians, stranded fish, and hatchling dinosaurs. On this day she came across a breeding pair of small hesperornithiform diving birds and their brood of chicks. (RSM P2315.1, Hesperornithiform A) She only managed to snatch one hatchling before she was driven away by the slightly larger male bird.

This is western North America, 66 million years ago, the Maastrichtian stage. The plants include the palm Sabalites, the water plant Paranymphaea, and floodplain trees and leaves including Platanites, Penosphyllum, and the conifer Fokieniopsis.

Most predators feed preferentially on young animals. Humans may be alone in preferring large, strong, prey items, that are in their breeding prime. Only we take ‘trophies’. This may be one reason we have been so much more destructive to natural populations than any other predator has ever been.[1],[2]

[1] Chris T. Darimont, Caroline H. Fox, Heather M. Bryan, and Thomas E. Reimchen (2015)The unique ecology of human predators. Science 21 August 2015: 349 (6250), 858-860. [DOI:10.1126/science.aac4249]

[2]  D.W.E. Hone, O.W.M. Rauhut (2010) Feeding behaviour and bone utilisation by theropod dinosaurs Lethaia, 43, pp. 232–244

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