T.rex Taken Down a Notch

on July 3, 2010

National Geographic News: “T. rex Plodded Like an Elephant, Nerve Study SaysT. rex, you’ve just been taken down a notch.

We already knew—as reported in June 2007—that Tyrannosaurus rex was probably not as quick a mover as has been portrayed in movies and other media. The study covered in 2007 concluded that T. rex “was unlikely to have topped 40km/h (25mph)” and also cast doubt on the dinosaur’s agility.

The new research is based on the “speed limit” of nerve signals in a large creature’s body.

Now, a different line of research comes to the same conclusion. While the previous study relied on biomechanical modeling, the new research is based on the “speed limit” of nerve signals in a large creature’s body. Through close study of the nervous systems of a variety of modern animals, researchers led by Max Donelan of Simon Fraser University suggest there is a nerve speed limit of about 180 ft. (55 m) per second. And the nerve speed limit applies to dinosaurs like T. rex as well.

“To be agile, Tyrannosaurus would need to be both all muscle and all nerve,” Donelan joked, referencing previous studies that have shown T. rex’s muscle mass insufficient for high speeds. But the study’s authors are careful to note that T. rex would still have been “impressive and exciting to see, and capable of surprising feats from time to time.”

The research reminds us that it’s not unrealistic to imagine humans and dinosaurs sharing the planet—as the Bible plainly implies. Just as modern humans survive on the same earth as carnivorous beasts, humans from previous generations would have been wise about which dinosaurs were to be avoided and where those dinosaurs lived. Learning more about T. rex’s true abilities—and limitations—shows how such cohabitation was possible.

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