Shameless Papistry, Fantastical and Paleontological Musings, General Hilarity

Dinosaur Meal Time

So recently, a friend of mine posted this on my Facebook wall: http://gizmodo.com/5954779/how-t-rex-ate-a-triceratops-in-four-easy-steps

I will do them one better. Today, you are in going to learn about one of the possible ways in which a T-Rex likely hunted.

You know, epic cinematic fights like this are actually an oddity in the animal kingdom.

Yes, that is correct. Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops very rarely duked it out horn to maw during the normal course of Late Cretaceous events. In fact, the above picture is even less accurate, because instinct would probably drive one away from biting the deadly end of an opponent. Especially when that deadly end has a chance to make your killy parts less killy for the duration of the fight.

It is far closer to reality to picture the scene I am about to describe to you.

Picture yourself in the branches of a large tree at the forest’s edge  during a pleasant Mesozoic evening. Before you is a fairly large migration pathway browsed and trampled by massive herbivorous dinosaurs into low-growing plants. Each of these creatures is at least a ton of muscle and sinew lumbering peacefully along, grazing as they go. Their number is mixed, with drastically different dinosaurs mingling together for mutual benefit. You see triceratops, ceratopsians, dangerous horned animals similar to the mammalian rhino is build and demeanor, lowing and grunting as they shuffle around through the ferns. Edmontosaurus, a hadrosaur, is also present, and these duck-bills pause while eating every so often to raise their heads and glance around them for any sign of danger.  The two work well together, with the hadrosaur’s higher profile allowing for a better vantage point to watch for predators, and the ceratopsians providing the serious defense in  a wall of horns and frills if one should show its face.

I hated how inaccurate so much of this film was. Carnotaurus never even got close to that unbelievably huge…

You see something huge move briefly in the shadows below you. A beast as black as night stands there, barely breathing, and nearly silent despite its gratuitous size. You find it hard to believe that a predator so powerful, so lethal, should be hidden in ambush, doing its best not to be seen until that one, final, critical moment. The bull Tyrannosaurus Rex is waiting for something to happen with all the patience of a Zen master.

And then everything does. All at once.

Looking back on the incident after the dust clears and blood and viscera stop going everywhere, you understand that one of the nearby Triceratops turned its body just a little too far, so that its head was not within 180 degrees of the T-Rex. However, what you saw then was a rush of impossibly fast motion and a horrific roar as the eight-ton carnivore barreled through the trees and into the open. The entire herd panics, bolting or desperately trying to close ranks and fend off this threat. They are too spread out and too terrified to do this effectively. The targeted animal tries to spin and face his attacker, but is not quick enough. If he had been angled just a bit differently, his powerful triceps and pectorals could have easily launched him into a rotating slash with his horns that would have disemboweled the T-Rex. Instead he is hit with freight-train force as the predator’s jaws close down hard on his hip joint and bite the whole thing off, completely removing the bone, muscle and tendons as the mighty fangs come together with the precision of a demonic cookie cutter.

An unstoppable force meets a yielding object.

The Triceratops tries to turn again and strike back, but with one of its rear legs out of commission, all it can do is thrash uselessly and try to land a blow. The second bite comes within moments of the first, separated from it only by the time the T-Rex needs to take a step and a half. When it comes crashing home, a man-sized hole in the ceratopsian’s ribcage is the result. The rest of the herd has realized the futility of rushing to help, and now sits angrily in a protective ring, with horns out and lungs bellowing at top volume. In some cases, they might have then charged the predator in shear rage, but not today. The attack is too sudden, and they are too shocked by what has just occurred. Meanwhile, their compatriot bleeds out rapidly and stops moving. The T-Rex then begins to feed, tearing off the head and limbs and stripping the carcass of flesh.

 

 

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