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Scientists Discover Evidence of Dino Battles

Apr 09, 2015 01:46 PM EDT
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We all know that the age of the dinosaurs must have been a hostile time on Earth, and now there's proof, as scientists have recently discovered evidence of bloody dino battles that took place.

That's at least according to new findings published in the journal PeerJ, which details how ferocious tyrannosaurs sustained serious injuries during life and death combat.

The study shows that a genus of tyrannosaur called Daspletosaurus experienced major trauma to its skull during the course of its life, at least some of which was likely inflicted by another Daspletosaurus. It was also bitten after death in an apparent event of scavenging by another tyrannosaur, suggesting that these predators even partook in cannibalism on occasion.

Daspletosaurus was a large carnivore that lived in Canada and was only a little smaller than its more famous cousin Tyrannosaurus. Based on the new fossil finds, the dino in question was not fully grown and would be considered a "sub-adult" in dinosaur terms - approximately equivalent to an older teenager in human terms. That would put it just under 6 meters (19.6 feet) long and around 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) when it died.

And like other tyrannosaurs, it was probably both an active predator and scavenger. But in this case, it was the hunted instead of the hunter.

Researchers found numerous injuries on the skull of the Daspletosaurus that occurred during its lifetime. Although not all of them can be attributed to bites, several are close in shape to the teeth of tyrannosaurs. For instance, one particular bite to the back of the head had broken off part of the skull and left a circular tooth-shaped puncture though the bone. While this sounds like the result of a very gruesome battle, alterations to the bone's surface indicate healing - meaning that these injuries were not fatal and the animal lived to fight another day.

"This animal clearly had a tough life suffering numerous injuries across the head including some that must have been quite nasty. The most likely candidate to have done this is another member of the same species, suggesting some serious fights between these animals during their lives," lead author Dr. David Hone, from Queen Mary, University of London, said in a press release.

So while there is no evidence that the dinosaur died at the hands - or mouth - of another tyrannosaur while it was alive, after its death is another story. The preservation of the skull and other bones, and damage to the jaw bones show that after the specimen began to decay, a large tyrannosaur (possibly of the same species) starting eating the animal in a fit of cannibalism.

While it has long been known that large carnivorous dinosaurs battled in combat and even had cannibalistic tendencies, this study provides unique evidence of both pre- and post-mortem injuries to a single individual.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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