The very tiny hands of T-Rex have been a subject of scientific curiosity since the first T-Rex fossils were discovered in 1902. The sheer size of the T-Rex makes one wonder how can such diminutive hands ever support a large body. It also makes us wonder how would a T-Rex get up after falling down.
So, how would a T-Rex get up after falling? T-Rex was equipped with a long and strong tail to help it get back up in case of a fall. The tail would help to keep the centre of balance/gravity back on the body as the hindlimbs were moved into position underneath to get up.
Looking at the Tyrannosaurus Rex, one can’t help but notice its small arms in comparison to its body and also its long tail. It would seem logical that somehow these could help a fallen T. Rex, and here are some facts:
- T. rex had tiny arms in relation to the size of its body. (Source)
- The arms were only about 3 feet long and had only two fingers. (Source)
- The tail was made up of many vertebrae and could be up to 40 feet long. (Source)
Let’s dive deeper into how scientists think a T-Rex would get up once it had fallen, and if the tiny arms and long tail aided in the stand-up recovery.
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How Would A T-Rex Get Up After Falling? A Closer Look
You just have to look at the birds, who are the closest things to dinosaurs today to see how a T-Rex might get up in an event of a fall.
Birds just put one limb below the centre of gravity and after that, they extend the other. Tyrannosaurs could do this easily, and even more, as they had the help of their long and strong tail. The tail helped to keep the centre of gravity back on the body as the hindlimbs were positioned for getting up.
From skeletal evidence and albertosaur trackways (which showed their tails did not drag), it is clear tyrannosaur tails acted as counter-balances—a 10,000-pound walking, teeter-totters. The tail would have helped to keep the center of balance back on the body as the hindlimbs were moved into position underneath.
Apparently, tyrannosaurs must have gotten up at least once during their lives, that is after birth. So, there is no reason to believe they could not throughout their lifetime, whether they have puny arms or not.
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Would a T-Rex Really Survive If It Falls?
It is now clear that T-rex’s hands could not reach its mouth. The elbow could not be extended much beyond a 90-degree angle. The arms were very strong (perhaps capable of curling nearly 400 pounds) but had a very limited range of motion, both side-to-side and up-and-down.
The limits presented by these puny hands raises a question as to whether a T-Rex will survive in the event of a fall, since it has no capable arms to break its fall and counter its weight?
According to paleontologist Gregory Erikson from Florida State University, T-Rex may not simply die from falling, though it may sustain heavy injuries. He also agrees that they probably stood much like birds do, but aided considerably by their tails.
YouTube Video – Watch an Emu / Ostrich Fall Down
Dr. Bruce Rothschild, of the Arthritis Center of Northeast Ohio, has found evidence of 14 fractured ribs in an Allosaurus that reflect healed injuries that were probably received in falls. These were most likely belly flops that happened while running (source: April 16, 1998 New Scientist).
An x-ray analysis of the Allosaurus fossil indicated that the Allosaurus ribs near the scapula (the shoulder bone) were cracked and had healed. The Allosaurus was capable of recovering after many severe forwards tumbles that probably occurred while it was running.
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So, the suggestion that perhaps the large short-armed theropods were not capable of running because they couldn’t recover after a fall apparently wasn’t so, at least for Allosaurus – this Allosaurus did recover many times after bad tumbles.
Admittedly, the wrists of T-Rex were considerably weaker and do not seem suited for supporting large mechanical loads. Like those of their albertosaur “cousins,” the small T-rex arms were often broken during life. This fact suggests that they were poorly suited for whatever the dinosaurs were trying to use them for and, more importantly, that these animals could go without using their arms for periods of up to a month.
Large theropods (like the T-Rex) have a center of gravity located below their hips, making their locomotion inherently more stable (just like a pendulum will work). As such they would be unlikely to fall if they are walking or sprinting. However, running is another thing entirely.
If T. rex had been moving fast and tripped, it would have died,” says Farlow. He argues that the risk of a fatal stumble would have kept T-rex from dashing across Cretaceous North America as fast as some other paleontologists have suggested.
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Ultimate Guide to Tyrannosaurus Rex
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The main article in the series, it is packed with information all about the King of the Dinosaurs. it provides information about the first discovery, some of the latest fossil findings, and covers the anatomy of the dinosaur. Following this, it provides a look at the classification and phylogeny. The places, where T. Rex fossils have been found are described and a few of the key fossil skeletons are described. The master article also covers:
—Interesting facts you may not know about T. Rex
—Unanswered questions about the T. Rex
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The Consequences Of A Fall
When an animal falls and hits the ground, the force of the impact depends on its mass and its height. Weighing about 7 tonnes with its stomach 1.5 metres above the ground, a tripping T. rex’s torso would have hit the deck with a deceleration of 6 g (six times the acceleration due to gravity).
This equates to a force of 260 000 newtons, which in dry soil would make a crater 20 centimetres deep. Its head, coming down from a height of 3.5 metres, would have suffered an even worse fall – decelerating at 14 g.
This impact alone could kill, says Farlow, and T-rex’s tiny front legs would have done nothing to break its fall. Further injuries would have been suffered as the beast slid on the ground, propelled by its forward momentum.
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Farlow says that a fall at any speed could have been lethal. But sprinting would have given T-rex less time to recover if it missed its footing, greatly increasing the danger of falling and it likely would be able to get up after falling.
Farlow argues that the dinosaur would have had to trade off the benefits of running faster – such as increasing its chances of catching agile prey – against the potentially lethal consequences of a fall. T-rex might have survived a splashdown on marshy ground, but there the soft going would have prevented it from running quickly.
T-Rex General Anatomy
Tyrannosaurus rex was most likely the ultimate predator that appeared in the last 25,000,000 years of the Cretaceous Period. T-rex’s leg length was about 3.5 m; it’s stride length (distance between footprints) averaged about 1.76 m. Sue, the largest T. rex, had a stride length of up to 12 to 15 feet (3.7-4.6 m), and may have run at up to 15 mph (24 kph).
They were giant carnivorous dinosaurs that stalked the landscape and, being the most notorious flesh-eaters ever known, they were specifically and perfectly evolved to kill and eat even other giant dinosaurs, even ones larger than itself. Its body was strong and muscular with a long, heavy tail, two very large and strong legs and two tiny, two-clawed forearms.
T. rex walked on two legs, and may have been a relatively fast dinosaur. Its slim, pointed tail provided balance and quick turning while running. Though it has been established that T-Rex were not as fast as previously estimated, nevertheless they were also not slow, lumbering animals. Unlike old depictions, T-Rex held its tail erect, and did not drag it on the ground.
T-Rex had a well-developed brain was well developed, which gave it excellent senses sight comparable to that of a hawk or an eagle, great hearing, and advanced olfactory that allowed Tyrannosaurus to efficiently smell prey from over four miles away.
Relative to the large and powerful hind limbs, Tyrannosaurus forelimbs were small and retained only two digits. Recent specimens have shown the tiny arms to have been well-muscled, presumably to enable the animal to anchor itself to the ground as it attempted to straighten its hind legs and stand up from a prone position.
Additionally, T. rex might have had another advantage over other carnivorous dinosaurs of a similar size: its bite. It has been speculated that Tyrannosaurus rex also possessed a biological weapon. Their bites could have induced a vast number of bacteria onto its victims, similar to that of a Komodo dragon. The primary weapon of a Tyrannosaurus was their mouth that carries a massive jaw.
The teeth were used to grip prey, breaking bones, puncturing arteries, and rupturing many organs. These jaws could crush bone and tear off up to 70 kilograms of meat in a single bite at a time.
How Did T-Rex Use Its “Tiny” Hands?
There have been a few theories over the years, some of which might be true on how T-Rex used their puny hands.
- T-Rex males may have used their arms and hands to grab onto females during mating (females still possessed these limbs, of course, presumably using them for the other purposes listed below). Given how little we currently know about dinosaur sex, this theory may just be speculations as it its best
- T-Rex used its arms to lever itself off the ground if it happened to be knocked off its feet during battle, say, with an eager-not-to-be-eaten Triceratops (which can be a tough proposition if you weigh eight or nine tons), or if it slept in a prone position.
- T-Rex used its arms to clutch tightly onto squirming prey before it delivered a killer bite with its jaws. (This dinosaur’s powerful arm muscles lend further credence to this idea, but once again, there is no direct fossil evidence for this behaviour.)
At this point you may be asking: how do we know if T-Rex used its arms at all? Well, nature tends to be very economical in its operation: it’s unlikely that the tiny arms of theropod dinosaurs would have persisted into the late Cretaceous period if these limbs didn’t serve at least some useful purpose.
The most likely explanation for T-Rex’s oddly proportioned arms is that they were exactly as big as they needed to be. The arms were probably to enable the animal to anchor itself to the ground as it attempted to straighten its hind legs and stand up from a prone position.
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