How fast could a T-rex run?

And, more importantly, was it fast enough to catch you?

Grid computing is helping palaeontologists to understand better how dinosaurs moved around and what roles they played in their ancient world.

With its sharp teeth and massive jaws, the T-rex is the stuff of nightmares. It’s not surprising that scientists are convinced the T-rex was a carnivorous predator but huge teeth don’t tell the whole story. Was it like the modern cheetah and catch its prey in short burst-like sprints? Or was the T-rex a sneaky stalk-and-ambush hunter like the jaguar? What was its place in the Cretaceous ecosystem?

Since we can’t see a real T-rex in action (it disappeared along with the other dinosaurs 65 million years ago), palaeontologists need to look elsewhere to understand its role as a predator. Top running speed offers good clues to solving this mystery – but how do you measure the maximum speed of an extinct animal?

If zebras were to become extinct, the palaeontologists of the future could probably use horses or donkeys as comparisons. People looking at dinosaur behaviour don’t have that luxury because there is nothing alive today quite like a T-rex. The solution is to create a detailed computer simulation of the animal’s skeleton and muscles.

Continue reading...