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T. rex could be the 'tyrant lizard' after all

A T. rex tooth found lodged in an herbivore thought to have been alive when it was attacked provides new evidence that the T. rex was a predator, not just a scavenger.


Senior author Robert DePalma (left) and coauthor David Burnham (right) holding the fossil specimen.

Fallon E. Cohen

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A T. rex tooth discovered in the tail of an herbivore that apparently survived the attack has added new evidence to a century-old debate among paleontologists about whether or not the dinosaur was a scavenger or a predator. 

The latest clue in the mystery is a single T. rex tooth, found embedded in the tailbone of a hadrosaur. The duck-billed dinosaur's bone seems to have healed over the bite wound, suggesting that it was alive at the time of the assault, and that it survived.

“The discovery of the tooth surrounded by healed bone is ironclad, direct evidence that this T. rex attacked a living animal, and supports the notion that T. rex engaged in predation,” said Robert DePalma, a paleontologist at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida and a co-author on the study, in an email interview.

“All of the evidence thus far proposed has been indirect and circumstantial," he wrote. "There never has been an actual bullet for the smoking gun.”

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