Tooth Be Told: T. Rex Was Hunter

Finding may wipe out theory it was scavenger

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 16, 2013 10:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – Lately, scientists have suggested that Tyrannosaurus rex wasn't the vicious hunter from the movies—instead, with its slower speeds and weak eyesight, it was a scavenger, they argue. But a new finding offers clear evidence against that rather disappointing theory. Researchers have discovered a T. rex tooth lodged in the spine of another dinosaur—whose tailbone had healed, indicating the T. rex attacked a live, not dead, creature, the Wall Street Journal reports. "It's not just a smoking gun—we've actually found the bullet," says the paleontologist who co-authored the study, per National Geographic.

The Florida-based paleontologist who made the discovery in the spine found in Montana says "as soon as I could see that tooth lodged in the side, I knew it was an extremely significant piece," he says. That was confirmed via a microscopic inspection of the 1.5-inch-long tooth's serrations. "We were able to conclusively identify the tooth as coming from a Tyrannosaurus rex and no other dinosaur." The four-ton victim was a hadrosaur, a plant-eater that lived in what's now the American West. But some scientists say the tooth isn't quite proof: "It's one data point, and that's the least amount of data you can have," notes one.

Researchers Robert A. DePalma II, left, and David A. Burnham show a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth crown embedded between the vertebrae of a hadrosaur and surrounded by bone overgrowth.
Researchers Robert A. DePalma II, left, and David A. Burnham show a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth crown embedded between the vertebrae of a hadrosaur and surrounded by bone overgrowth.   (AP Photo/David A. Burnham)
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