Dinosaurs

Dino bones reveal T.Rex’s awkward teen phase

Even tyrant lizards have growth spurts.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex had an awkward growth spurt early in life, according to new research.

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We can’t observe dinosaur behavior, so scientists turn to the traces we have left — fossils, footprints, a sprinkle of DNA — to understand how these giant animals lived.

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Studying how quickly a dinosaur grew can tell us something about their behavior — for instance, did they need to get big quickly to help them hunt?

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Sometimes currently living animals can help us understand the past, but this is tricky with dinosaurs because they’re related to both birds and reptiles.

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And birds and reptiles today grow quite differently.

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Birds tend to have one big growth spurt and reach their adult size quickly.

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Reptiles, on the other hand, tend to grow more slowly, and body size can vary widely between adults and juveniles.

To investigate growth patterns in dinosaurs, the team turned to bones.

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Bones are kind of like trees. Each period of growth creates a marking in the bone, like a tree ring does a tree.

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Blood vessels in the bone can reveal growth rate as well — more organized blood vessels means that growth rate was slow, and vice versa.

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Carefully slicing open T.rex bones and analyzing them under a microscope revealed T.rex went through a huge growth spurt early in life — possibly to help them hunt.

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They also found T.rex’s prey, like triceratops or duck-billed hadrosaurs, also seemed to grow quickly in adolescence.

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Further studies will help scientist understand why each dinosaur grew the way they did. For instance, it is possible T.rex grew fast to keep up with its quickly-growing prey.

Read more science and nature stories here.

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