Tyrannosaurus rex was a species of Theropoda dinosaur in the Late Cretaceous period. Like other tyrannosaurids – such as Tarbosaurus and Gorgosaurus – the T-rex was a bipedal carnivore and apex predator and scavenger, preying on smaller dinosaurs directly or out-muscling them for their kills. Typical prey included hadrosaurs and ceratopsians.
Tyrannosaurus rex’s name translates as ‘tyrant lizard king’ – something that was historically attributed due to its immense size. Indeed, the Tyrannosaurus rex is one of the largest species ever excavated by palaeontologists, with specimens averaging over 12 metres (40 feet) in length and four metres (13 feet) in height, but it wasn’t the biggest carnivorous dino.
It was also incredibly heavy with fully grown adults weighing up to nine tons; this figure was suggested in 2011 after an in-depth study which made digital 3D models of five T-rex skeletons.
Due to their considerable size, the Tyrannosaurus rex had very few, if any, predators – a fact that enabled it to remain unchallenged as the Late Cretaceous era’s apex predator on land and to live for lengthy periods.
Estimates taken from excavated specimens – of which ” there are now more than 30 confirmed around the world – indicate that the T-rex’s life span was roughly 30 years, with the majority of growth taking place in the first 16 years before tailing off rapidly. This suggests that the Tyrannosaurus rex would have reached adulthood at approximately 20 years of age.
As with almost all species of Dinosauria, the Tyrannosaurus was wiped out 65.5 million years ago in the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) extinction event. At the time it was one of the last widespread non-avian dinosaurs, as evidenced by the discovery of many specimens throughout North America.
Due to a variety of films depicting the T-rex in their own unique way, an accurate view of the species has been clouded. For example, despite being a prominent star of all the Jurassic Park films, Tyrannosaurus rex did not exist in the Jurassic period (199-145 MYA). In fact, it lived millions of years later during the Late Cretaceous (100-65.5 MYA). Further, for decades T-rex has been depicted as having green scaly skin.
However, recent evidence suggests its skin colour was varied and, during the early years of its life, it probably sported insulative feathers. The T-rex has also been commonly lauded as the biggest carnivorous dinosaur of them all. This isn’t strictly true, with palaeontological evidence suggesting the species Spinosaurus outsized it by over three metres (9.9 feet) in length. And finally, another myth perpetuated in Jurassic Park is that the Tyrannosaurus could run at high speed (ie keep up with a car), but it could probably only manage about 40 kilometres (25 miles) per hour due to its relatively small strides.
Facts about T-Rex
Tail – Crucial for maintaining balance -especially as modern evidence suggests T-rex had a near-horizontal spinal position – the dinosaur’s large tail was essential for chasing prey.
Skull – Tyrannosaurus’s skull was huge and its snout and lower jaw were very deep. The eye sockets faced forward to a greater degree than most dinosaurs, indicating it had acute binocular vision.
Hind legs – The large hind legs connected to the body via a lizard-style hip arrangement. The size of the legs granted the dinosaur excellent pushing power, though due to its small strides (compared to other species) it couldn’t run very fast.
Forelimbs – Tyrannosaurus had incredibly short forelimbs with hands boasting two full-sized fingers and a single smaller one. The two larger fingers were equipped with razor-sharp, sickle-shaped claws.
Mouth – The T-rex’s mouth was massive and contained 60 serrated teeth. All the teeth were different sizes, with some up to 20cm (7.9in) long.