Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of the most popular dinosaurs, and as a result, there are many myths and misconceptions about this creature.
Many of these myths and misconceptions are the fault – many of which come directly from 1993’s Jurassic Park movie – which for many of us, was one of the reasons we become so interested in dinosaurs in the first place.
Others come from our changing understanding of T-Rex over the years, as studies and research have been done to further confirm and improve our knowledge of these prehistoric predators.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common myths and conceptions, hoping to dispel as many of these as we can, helping to improve your knowledge on all-things T-Rex. We’ll kick things off this list with the biggest one of all – their arms, being weak and useless…
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Myth 1: T-Rex arms were small, useless, and weak
T-Rex arms are a running joke – and perhaps the single biggest myth, which is why we chose to start with it. Most people still believe that their short arms were weak and useless. However, the current scientific understanding couldn’t be further from this common misconception.
It’s thought that T-Rex used its arms to hold down prey, twisting their palms inward, towards their chest, enabling them to keep a firm grip. There’s also evidence to suggest that the stumpy appendages could lift at least 400 lbs each, making them far from useless and at least three times stronger than the average human arm.
There are some other theories about how T-Rex might have used their arms, including as a weapon, using their 4″ long claws to scratch at and wound prey, helping them to more effectively tackle and subdue other dinosaurs. While we don’t know for sure how they might have used their arms, one thing is for certain – they certainly weren’t as weak and useless as many people think.
Myth 2: T-Rex lived during the Jurassic Period
More of a myth among the general public and not dinosaur enthusiasts, is that T-Rex lived during the Jurassic Period – due to it’s being a prominent dinosaur in 1993’s Jurassic Park. As anyone in the know will be aware, T-Rex actually lived in the Late Cretaceous period, millions of years after the end of the Jurassic Period.
There were however theropods in the Jurassic Period, the largest of which being the Torvosaurus, which lived during the middle and late Jurassic Period and was of a similar size to the later T-Rex.
While it would have been more scientifically accurate to include earlier theropods in the film, as opposed to T-Rex, it’s pretty obvious why you wouldn’t – given how well-known the T-Rex is, being arguably the most famous of all dinosaurs.
Myth 3: T-Rex was fast
We all remember the iconic scene of from Jurassic Park, where the T-Rex chases and, for a while at least, keeps pace with a moving Jeep. However, the current science shows the opposite, with it thought that T-Rex would have struggled to keep up with humans, let alone a vehicle.
Computer simulations have shown that at best, T-Rex would have had a top speed of around 11 mph. To put this into perspective, the average sprinting speed of humans ranges between 12-18 mph.
So sure, being chased by a T-Rex would have been terrifying, but if you were in relatively good shape, you’d likely have no trouble getting away from this ferocious beast. Other dinosaurs of the time wouldn’t have been so lucky however, with many thought to have top speeds that were much slower than that of the T-Rex.
Myth 4: T-Rex roared
Despite what we’ve all seen in the movies, the most feared predators of the Cretaceous period, was in fact, unable to roar.
Some scientists believe that the T-Rex’s inability to roar was due to the fact that its vocal cords were not developed enough. Others believe that the T-Rex’s skull was simply too thick to produce a loud roar.
At best, T-Rex was likely had a similar vocal range to the modern crocodile, having more of a moan than a roar – although this would no doubt have been just as terrifying to potential prey.
Myth 5: T-Rex was a scavenger
Some people believe that T-rex was a scavenger, feasting on dinosaurs that were already dead, killed by other predators. While it’s likely that T-Rex would sometimes scavenge, not wanting to miss out on a free meal, it was primarily a hunter and taking down it’s own prey.
T-Rex was certainly capable of doing so, with a 2014 study finding that T-rex had up to three times the amount of muscle mass as other theropod dinosaurs. This would have given T-Rex the strength and power to take down even the largest prey.
Further evidence emerged in 2013, when a fossil was unearthed that found a T-Rex tooth lodged in the tail of a herbivore – the first time such a find was discovered, confirming that T-Rex were indeed active hunters, and not scavengers.
Myth 6: T-Rex was the biggest of all carnivorous dinosaurs
Despite T-Rex being known as “King of the Dinosaurs”, it wasn’t the biggest carnivorous dinosaur to ever live. That accolade goes to Spinosaurus, which stood at up to 60 feet tall and weighed up to a whopping 10 tons – which, on average, put it close to 25% bigger than T-Rex.
Spinosaurus isn’t the only dinosaur that would have been bigger than T-Rex, with other theropods including Carcharodontosaurus and Giganotosaurus being slightly larger than T-Rex.
Don’t get us wrong, standing at over 40 feet tall and weighing up to 7.5 tons, T-Rex was certainly a monster when it came to size, it just wasn’t the quite the biggest carnivore to have ever lived.
Myth 7: T-Rex wasn’t intelligent
Contrary to popular belief, T-Rex were actually pretty smart, being the smartest of all non-avian theropods. In addition, and according to some researches, may have even been roughly about as smart as modern chimpanzees – a truly terrifying prospect!
While the brain to body size ration of a T-Rex was fairly small, their brains were in fact larger than that of humans, with one notable difference – the cerebrum, which is the part of the brain that is used to think, was tiny in comparison to ours.
Compared to other dinosaurs of the time, T-Rex would have be much smarter than most, which would have given it a real edge over its prey and made it one of the smartest dinosaurs to have ever existed.
Myth 8: T-Rex were cold-blooded
Rex wasn’t a cold-blooded lizard. Recent studies have shown that he probably had a warm body temperature, like modern birds and mammals. This would explain why dinosaurs evolved feathers, providing all-important insulation to protect them from the elements.
Another thing that points to T-Rex being warm-blooded is that the microscopic structure of dinosaur fossils tells us that they grew quickly, which is something only animals with fast metabolisms and well-controlled body temperatures do.
That said, it’s still not clear whether or not their bodies regulated body temperatures in the same way ours does. However, the current science would point to T-Rex being able to regulate body temperature as we do.
Myth 9: They were all grayish-green and covered in scales
When we picture T-Rex, we often thing of a creature with tough, grayish-green skin covered in scales, much like modern reptiles – however, research shows that it’s far more likely that it’s appearance was closer to that of birds, with feathers on its back, head, and neck.
On the question of color, paleontologists have been able to tell that some dinosaurs were actually quite colorful, instead of the typical dull colors we think of. They’ve be able to do this by looking at structures called melanosomes, which are found in well-preserved feather fossils. Melanosomes held pigments, and by studying these, their shapes, and arrangements, it’s possible to determine the colors that they originally were.
So, while the classic depiction of T-Rex in movies like Jurassic Park is what most people picture when they think of T-Rex, this is actually pretty far away from where the current science is today.
Myth 10: T-Rex wouldn’t see you if you don’t move
Don’t move! He can’t see you if you don’t move, Dr. Alan Grant yells in Jurassic Park when a huge T-Rex is attacking a vehicle during a thunderstorm. Here’s the problem: it’s simply not true.
T-Rex was more than capable of seeing well, even if the thing it was looking at was in motion or not. There’s also a lot of proof that its sight was in fact excellent, perhaps even better than modern-day hawks and eagles.
Research by Professor Kent Stevens at the University of Oregon, published in 2006, concluded that T-Rex had a binocular range of 55 degrees – a range similar to most modern raptorial birds – or “birds or prey”.
Well there you have it, our round-up of 10 common T-Rex myths and misconceptions, covering everything from scientific inaccuracies in movies like the Jurassic Park franchise, to our changing understanding of the science on just what these ferocious prehistoric creatures were like.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and as with all this science – with more research and studies taking place all the time, what we know about T-Rex, what it looked like, and how it behaved, will no doubt change and improve as time goes on.
While we’re sure you would have be aware of some of these, hopefully we’ve provided at least a few that you weren’t so aware of, and that you’re able to take away something from this article that helps to better your own understanding on all-things T-Rex. We hope it was worth the read!