T. Rex Was Ferocious Predator, Not Scavenger

A Tyrannosaurus Rex hunts an Ornithomimus.
Mark Garlick/Corbis

As most anyone who went through the "dinosaur phase" in childhood already guessed Tyrannosaurus rex was a fearsome predator.

A plant-eating dinosaur found with a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth lodged in its tail has confirmed what scientists long suspected: T. rex was a predator.

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The tooth was discovered in the tail of a hadrosaur that lived about 66 million years ago.

Dr. Paul Sereno describes the raptorex, a much smaller yet equally terrifying version of T-Rex.

"It's the Holy Grail for a paleontologist," said study co-author David Burnham, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas. "Not only was the tooth broken off, but the tail had healed around it. That means that Tyrannosaurus rex attacked that other dinosaur." (Image Gallery: See the T. rex bite wound)

The findings were published today (July 15) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Circumstantial evidence

Although T. rex has been portrayed as the deadliest dino predator, the case for predation wasn't airtight. Even though stomach remains, a fearsome bite and body plan all suggested the imposing dinosaur attacked and ate other prey, some paleontologists proposed that T. rex was a scavenger, feasting on already dead animals but not killing its prey itself.

A few other herbivore fossils had been found with traces of T. rex bite wounds, but the evidence wasn't conclusive.

Burnham and his colleagues were excavating in the Hell Creek formation in South Dakota. During the Cretaceous Period, the area was a vast network of forested rivers, and the formation now contains myriad fossils of dinosaurs and small mammals from the period.

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