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Earth Science

New Research Shows Humans Could Outrun T. Rex 257

bongey writes: T-Rex would have a hard time even catching an average human running, much less Usain Bolt or Jeeps, without shattering their legs into pieces. New research based on simulations that include the load on the bones show that T-Rex would have a hard time running faster than 12 miles per hour (5.4 meters per second) without bones breaking. The new research correlates to speeds calculated from adolescence sized T-Rex dinosaur footprints in 2016, which showed walking speeds to be only 2-5mph, and estimated running speeds 11-18 mph. Gizmodo notes that while T. rex was unable to pursue its prey at high speeds, high speed is a relative term. "For reference, typical humans can sprint anywhere between eight to 15 miles per hour (elite athletes can exceed 20 mph). So to outrun a T. rex, many animals -- or fictional humans -- would still have to run like hell."
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New Research Shows Humans Could Outrun T. Rex

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @03:21AM (#54837553)

    ...are slower than they appear

  • Scavenger (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @03:39AM (#54837579)

    While there seem to be a large number of people who keep thinking T-Rex is a hunter.

    Have to say, I'm more and more in the camp which suggest that T-Rex is more like a vulture. T-Rex has a big noose, body for long walks, not sprints, etc.

    • You've got a way of thinking, which actually made me think.

      T-Rex might be close to a bear's behavior (grizzly bear to be exact). Grizzly bear isn't the fastest, but is surely one of the bigger if not biggest in the forest. They do pick off big prey but they also take / scavenge food from other predators like wolfs.

      It seems like there are some similarity between T-Rex and Grizzly bear.

      • by phayes ( 202222 )

        Grizzly bears can outrun horses, elk and deer in many/some conditions which takes away from your thesis but they also take kills and carrion from wolves if the pack isn't too large.

        So T-Rex may have been apex predators that often/usually fed off of the kills of other predators. The ratio of often to usually has yet to be determined.

      • All animals eat crap just lying around, predators, even herbivores eat small rodents as occasion presents and fish that wash up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I would think larger animals are either hunters or veg eaters. Huge scavengers might have a hard time finding enough food to fulfill their needs. Maybe there were enough large dead or injured things lying around, but I would expect scavengers to be on the smaller side.

      How fast a person runs today in shoes on a flat surface in a straight line is one thing. How fast our ancestors ran in bare feet on rough terrain is another. I would assume humans had the ability to change directly more quickly than a T Rex
      • I would think larger animals are either hunters or veg eaters. Huge scavengers might have a hard time finding enough food to fulfill their needs.

        Maybe there were enough large dead or injured things lying around, but I would expect scavengers to be on the smaller side.

        If T. Rex had a big nose and hung around herds there may have been a lot of opportunity to scavenge. Basically every kill that happens in the neighbourhood is yours for the taking.

        As for size, a bunch of smaller predators are fast and can use teamwork to bring down a big herbivore, but once that meal is on the ground they don't have the size to defend the kill from a big carnivore. Doesn't matter who brought it down, once they T. Rex shows up it's the T. Rex's meal.

        People used to think that hyenas were scav

      • Carrion eating birds like vultures and condors tend to be fairly large.

    • Assuming it was possible, I've always wondered if that big tail would carry enough mass/momentum to swing and knock their prey off balance; maybe enough to brake their legs (not the T-Rex's).

    • Re:Scavenger (Score:5, Informative)

      by omfglearntoplay ( 1163771 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @10:30AM (#54839095)

      T-rex was definitely a hunter. They've found more than one example of T-rex teeth scars in triceratops that survived and had the scars heal over proving that the triceratops lived through the battle and healed up. You can't tell me the mama T-rex was defending her babies from a carnivorous triceratops, and almost all dino experts say T-rex was a hunter with such evidence. Here is a link citing an embedded T-rex tooth in a hadrosaur, so you can't say it was another animal that attacked.

      https://www.theguardian.com/sc... [theguardian.com]

      I quote, "This is unambiguous evidence that T rex was an active predator," the authors write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Such evidence is rare in the fossil record for good reason â" prey rarely escapes."

      I suspect only Horner is really into shaking things up for attention, like with the idea that T-rex was a vulture. More attention for dinosaurs, OK I get it, but take some of those wild theories with a grain of salt. Why would T-rex have to be incredibly fast? Why not be an ambush predator? Big cats are not faster than their prey for the most part, yet they survive by being hunters. Crocodilians can't cover ground fast, but with the element of surprise have been incredibly successful. All T-rex needed was to hide in the brush and wait, I suspect. One clamp of those incredibly powerful, the most powerful land jaws probably, bite is all that was often needed I bet.

    • It also may not be binary. Many predators in the wild are not pure hunters. Lions will scavenge if they have to do so. They will also take kills from other animals like cheetahs and hyenas. Bears will also scavenge. T-Rex may have hunted but it may not have hunted like a cheetah chasing down prey. It might be more of an ambush hunter like a leopard.
    • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

      T. rex lassoes its prey?

    • My daily hike is on a hill that the vultures also like to visit recreationally. There is also a pair of bald eagles that live there. The eagles are not faster than the vultures during casual flight. The eagles have greater control at slow speeds, that's the main difference in their movement. The vultures mating displays are done at a much higher speed than eagles, and involve a wide variety of acrobatic feats. The vultures, when they're not involved in mating or playing, tend to choose a more relaxed style

  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @03:49AM (#54837603)
    If you click through and read the article, you will find a discussion that explains that this entire conclusion was based on a rare set of footprints that were found to be of a certain spacing. They then started a variety of different extrapolations, covering values such as estimating the height of the dinosaur's hips above the ground, the weight of the dinosaur and so on.

    Their determination that this set of tracks came from a Tyrannosaur was made on the basis that there is no knowledge of any other matching species in that area at that time.

    Having measured the stride of this dinosaur and estimated the height of its hips above the ground, they then used measurements taken from "living, walking bipeds" to make their claim.


    Now, I'm all in favour of scientific research and analysis. I love reading about cutting edge insights to the world around us. I think it enriches our lives. On the other hand, when I read this article published on the Science website, the first thought that came to me was, "There are an awful lot of assumptions and approximations in here..."

    They don't know, definitively, that this was a T-Rex.
    They don't know what it was doing at the time the tracks were made [for example, if it had been stalking prey, maybe it was treading softly, moving slowly, so perhaps it's steps were uncharacteristic.
    They don't know whether it was injured, or weak, or unwell. You can't determine the nutritional state of a hundreds-of-millions-of-years-dead dinosaur from a footprint, can you?
    They are also assuming that things like the metabolic efficiency, the muscular strength and even the bone density of dinosaurs are all perfectly equivalent to what we see today. In other words, they are cherry-picking facts to fit their theories.


    I am absolutely certain that there is some great research and excellent work being undertaken by the Team that made this announcement, but this is far, far short of science. This is assumption and theory and conjecture based upon an entirely incomplete fact base.

    In one sense it is not worth being concerned over one-off articles like this. In the fullness of time we would expect scientific peer review to challenge and refine both the method of analysis and the final conclusions of this piece of work. Well, hopefully. The concern with this specific story is evidenced by the fact that it has been picked up and linked here, on slashdot. Which means it will be picked up by other science and tech news outlets and perhaps even broader news media. This is fine if the original work is robust and defensible, but in this case [at least as far as the original piece goes] that does not appear to be true... Oh well.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This post is both everything right and wrong with science commentary today. Everything you posted is completely correct, and you've done a very good job explaining how to critically think about the assumptions and approximations inherent to an analysis. But...

      What is your proposed way to more accurately measure how fast a T-Rex can run?

      This is the best effort, to date, to reasonably and scientifically arrive at an estimate. If you have a better idea, do it! That's how the field of science improves - someone

      • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @05:35AM (#54837803) Homepage

        Sometimes the best answer to some questions is "that cannot be determined with the available facts" and that indeed seems to be the case here.

        Their methodology in determining the speed of a (assumed healthy) T-Rex (assumed to be) walking at it's best speed contains too many assumptions that _cannot_ be proven to be reliable. The parable of the blind men that each examined a different part of an elephant and gave different descriptions applies here -- It's a wall said the one that touched it's ribcage, no it's a tree-trunk, said the one that touched it's foot/leg, no, it's a spear said the one who touched a tusk, etc.

        Their work is of some interest and may indeed help to determine T-Rex's top speed -- if it is corroborated with other sources that do not use the same assumptions.

        • by ytene ( 4376651 )
          This is exactly the point.

          The danger is that if we accept a scientific analysis which over-reaches the facts, then we are at risk of encouraging this behaviour.

          If we let supposition stand and, to borrow a line from "Dead Poets Society", we "let rumour fester into fact..." then we actually undermine the credibility of the entire scientific process. I am sorry if that comes across as a provocative or controversial claim to make, but I just think that with something like this, it's better to be cautious
        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          Sometimes the best answer to some questions is "that cannot be determined with the available facts" and that indeed seems to be the case here.

          This! But how often do we hear of a study that doesn't come to decisive conclusions? That would not likely be good for future funding. It's fine if they're going to say..."we think it might be x because of y, and we made these assumptions". But to come out and say...most humans could outrun a T-Rex is simply bad science or poor reporting, or both.

        • Their methodology in determining the speed of a (assumed healthy) T-Rex (assumed to be) walking at it's best speed contains too many assumptions that _cannot_ be proven to be reliable.

          I have to disagree with your assessment of the assumptions. The assumptions cannot be proven at this time. Or ever. However, it's another things to say that they are unreliable. The conclusion could be completely wrong but the assumptions given the circumstances are necessary.

          • by phayes ( 202222 )

            If you want to be the blind man with his hand up the elephant's nether region claiming that elephants are a latrine, please be my guest...

            The thing is, neither the authors nor doubters like me can be provably wrong which makes the paper more a declaration of faith than real science.

          • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

            Their methodology in determining the speed of a (assumed healthy) T-Rex (assumed to be) walking at it's best speed contains too many assumptions that _cannot_ be proven to be reliable.

            I have to disagree with your assessment of the assumptions. The assumptions cannot be proven at this time. Or ever. However, it's another things to say that they are unreliable. The conclusion could be completely wrong but the assumptions given the circumstances are necessary.

            They should be considered unreliable for a number of reasons, one of which is that it doesn't pass the sniff test. If you come to the conclusion that, were a T-Rex to try to run full-speed that its legs would just shatter, it may be that you're missing the forest for the trees, getting caught up enough in what-ifs that you don't realize the conclusion you're coming to is absolutely ridiculous on its face. A conclusion so ridiculous that you ought to have extraordinary, undeniable proof, or that it's a sign

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:43AM (#54837957) Journal

        Most things about dinosaurs need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, because you're often extrapolating entire species from under half a dozen samples of skeletons. The problem is in the translation from the scientific paper to the mainstream news. The first will list all of the caveats and the limits of their model (or be published somewhere crap and ignored by most researchers), the latter will present it as truth.

        One of the big problems for our society is that we often teach science as a religion with a set of facts, rather than as a process. When the facts are shown to be incorrect, people lose faith in science, rather than seeing an example of science working precisely as the process is meant to work.

        • by gtall ( 79522 )

          We also tend to teach religion as a science. The museum in Kentucky reputedly has humans riding dinosaurs based on no evidence at all. Now that's some fancy science!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You simply paraphrased (rather poorly) what the article clearly says.

      >The analysis doesn't prove that T. Rex couldn't have gone faster, however. Because trackways are records of single eventsâ"one walk along a lakeshore, for exampleâ"the odds are that any particular set of footprints doesnâ(TM)t capture a dinosaurâ(TM)s peak performance, says Thomas Holtz Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, College Park. Moreover, he notes, the types of sediment that are go

    • They don't know what it was doing at the time the tracks were made [for example, if it had been stalking prey, maybe it was treading softly, moving slowly, so perhaps it's steps were uncharacteristic.

      Very good point. Imagine if - millions of years from now - a cheetah's footprints were examined by archaeologists of that era. The prints show an animal walking very slowly and carefully. They might conclude that the cheetah was a slow predator, unable to run at fast speeds. Of course, they'd be wrong. The chee

    • by pkphilip ( 6861 )

      The propensity to jump to conclusions is not new. See this "research" which concluded that T-Rex's are cannibals based on a SINGLE bite mark which they found on a T-Rex:
      https://www.theguardian.com/sc... [theguardian.com]

      This is the paper:
      http://journals.plos.org/ploso... [plos.org]

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      From the summary I assumed that it was based on modeling the strength of T.Rex's bones, and that the fossil data on footsteps was just included to say that the result was consistent with the apparent data.

      FWIW, I doubt that T.Rex often ran even as rapidly as they are indicating. The body seems built more for striding.

  • "Marathon runners can average 8.8mph for 26.2 miles" (from google)

    Turtles < Normal Person < Marathon runners

    0.2mph < Normal Person < 8.8mph

    11mph < T-Rex < 15mph

    We're still screwed aren't we?

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:47AM (#54837967) Journal
      Marathon runners run quite slowly, because they have to keep going for hours. This is how primitive humans caught their prey: not by being faster, but by having a lot more stamina and keeping catching up and forcing the prey to spring until it reached exhaustion. Most humans can run for short periods a lot faster than they can jog a marathon. That said, 15mph is a 4 minute mile, which under a thousand humans have ever done, so if the T. Rex doesn't give up after about 30 seconds then you're probably going to become eaten.
      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        And if they were smart humans, they waiting until the prey moved close to them, jumped out from behind a rock and startled the prey so that it had a heart attack. Then dragged said prey home.

    • You're confusing average sustained speed over long distances (26.2 miles of running) with top speed.(shorter sprints). I read TFA as speculating on T-Rex's maximum speed (the "without bones breaking" part). As noted, top athletes sprint at well over 20mph, and even lesser mortals can make it into the double digits.

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Your marathon joggers go 8.8mph. World class is in the 12-13mph range.

  • That I can walk faster than a walking T-Rex. Outrunning a running T-Rex might be more problematic.
  • Use the bone cross section area, max allowable stress, impact load, weight of the animal, (do not use rare foot print and estimated stride length) come up with a model. Validate it with measured speed of elephants, rhinoceri and hippopotami adjust the fudge factors and tune the knobs.

    Then apply it to Dinosaurs.

    • no, wrong.

      elephants(common ancestor with manatees), rhinos(common ancestor with horses and tapirs) and hippo(common ancestor with whales) are all completely unrelated species with different bone and muscle structures. none of them would be relevant to modeling something that is in the common ancestry with birds.

  • Actually Randall Munroe is more worried about velociraptors [xkcd.com].
  • How much money we will spend on ridiculous "research" like this!

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      How much money do you think this took? This sounds like the spare time work of some grad students.

  • is it an African or European T.Rex?

  • When you consider the number of people that think humans and dinosaurs co-existed, I wish this educational opportunity had not been squandered.

  • A lot of prey is faster than the hunter. Canines and most felines will in many cases simply outlast their prey before taking it over. It's probably why humans survived so long, because we developed stamina. Humans can run and hide for outstanding amounts of time whether that is hunting or being hunted.

    Predators in the wild need to account for energy spent vs energy gained as well as the danger of the prey having enough stamina to fight back when the hunt is over, predators will tend to give up soon if the p

  • Isn't there a chance that when T rex existed, gravity may have been less, so his weight wouldn't be what we are measuring it at?
  • "So to outrun a T. rex, many animals -- or fictional humans -- would still have to run like hell."

    No problem. I can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that if I am running from a T-Rex then I will, in fact, be running like hell.

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