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MARTHA SEZ: Ironman for the T-rex? Not likely.

July 27, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Well, finally. More dinosaur news. It's been years since I wrote anything about dinosaurs.

I don't know whether this is the definitive word on the much-contested subject of T-rex speed or just the latest installment, but scientists at the University of Manchester, UK, using multibody dynamic analysis and skeletal stress analysis with computer simulation, have determined that T-rex could not run. His top speed, they estimate, was only about 10-12 mph.

According to Professor William Sellers of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, running for a T-rex would lead to "unacceptably high skeletal loads," causing its leg bones to break.

In the 1980s and '90s, many paleontologists maintained that T-rex could outrun a racehorse, reaching speeds of up to 45 mph. This theory was partially based on the fact that the giant sauropod had hind legs measuring 9 feet long.

Paleontologist Jack Horner, in his book "The Complete T-rex," published in 1993, however, painted T-rex as a slow-moving scavenger rather than a hunter.

Horner's description of T-rex as a skulking scavenger rather than a predator made me pretty mad and would have severely disappointed 6-year-old boys all over the world if they had heard the theory and actually believed it. As I wrote in this column at that time, if you were to visit a natural history museum and look up into the face of a T-rex skeleton, I doubt that you would say to yourself, Oh dear, I wonder if it bites?

In "The Complete T-rex," Horner did allow "I'm not convinced that T. rex was only a scavenger, though I will say so sometimes just to be contrary and get my colleagues arguing." He did insist that the dinosaur was not a fast runner, in contrast to what other scientists were saying.

In 2007, studies at the University of Manchester, UK, appeared to show that T-rex could run fast, but only about 18 mph rather than 30 or 45.

"This carnivore was certainly capable of running and would have little difficulty in chasing down footballer David Beckham," said scientist Phillip L. Manning at that time.

In this column, I observed, "Beckham, at 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, has been clocked at 17.9 miles per hour, his top running speed. Scientists at the University of Manchester are saying that T-rex, who measured about 18 feet tall and weighed 6.6. Thousand pounds, was capable of running 18 miles per hour, and could therefore theoretically outrun Beckham-or 'Becks,' as he is affectionately called in his own country. 'Spice Boy' is another one of his nicknames.

"Running speeds of five meat-eating dinosaurs were calculated.

"'Any of them could outrun Spice Boy," sneered a scientist.

"I venture to say that no one has timed Beckham when he was running away from a tyrannosaur in hot pursuit. That would be more than enough to enable Becks to close the gap between 17.9 and 18.01 miles per hour. But the fact is, we don't have any tyrannosaurs around, so it seems to me a touch spurious, and cruel, too, for scientists to go around wishing an imaginary T-rex on poor old soccer star David Beckham. I'd like to see how far those scientists would get."

This latest University of Manchester research indicates that T-rex could hustle only 10-12 mph. He was, they conclude, a fast walker, perhaps, but no runner.

Today, Dr. Manning, now director of the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston, S.C., has been quoted as saying that, even if T-rex could stride only 12 mph, "Most of us would have difficulty jogging to keep up."

I mentioned this to my old friend Biff when I ran into him and his mother at the Village Post Office in Keene Valley today. Biff and I went to see "Jurassic Park" together years ago, and he loved the scene where the tyrannosaur was chasing the Jeep. What I told him about the new study seemed to imake him pretty mad.

"I wonder if I could jog that fast," his mother mused.

"Well, no, they're not talking about an old lady," Biff told her.

Now you're just being mean," his mother said.

Have a good week.

 
 

 

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