Deadly dinosaur duel could resolve T. rex debate

Scientists eager to study pristine fossil remains, but an auction stands in the way

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Image credit: Flickr/puuikibeach


It was a fierce battle -- probably even more fierce than the fight awaiting the two plastic dinosaurs above - that ended in the deaths of both combatants 67 million years ago in an area of Montana called Hell's Creek.

While these deadly duels between prehistoric carnivores and herbivores were common, scientists say the discovery in Montana is only the second time fossilized remains have been found of dinosaurs in combat.

But this particular find may have even more significance, as the Irish Independent reports:

At first glance (the meat eater) looked like a smaller version of Tyrannosaurus rex, the apex predator of the Cretaceous era, but there were key differences, in particular its graceful head and large forelimbs.

Scientists believe the fossil provides clear evidence that T. rex shared its habitat with a smaller cousin, Nanotyrannus, in much the same way lions and cheetahs hunt together on the African savannah.

The discovery could end the debate that has raged between experts who believe in Nanotyrannus, and others who say the creature's fragmented fossils belong to T. rex's juvenile offspring.

The fossils (there's a picture in the link above) show the carnivore, measuring 20 to 24 feet in length, on the back of the 18-foot Triceratops, its teeth embedded in its prey's neck. Sadly for the meat-eater, its head was bashed in by the strong tail of its intended meal.

The sadness may not have ended there, however. Scientists may not be able to examine the huge rock because it is privately owned and scheduled for auction in New York in November, when it could be sold for up to $9 million.

According to the Irish Times, the "new species cannot be brought into the scientific literature unless it is brought into public ownership and made available for scientific research."

Let's hope the winner of the auction has a healthy respect for science.

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