The image of T-rex used to be one of an awesome, fearsome predator, roaming the ancient jungles killing everything in its wake. More recent studies suggest that T-rex wasn’t a fearsome killer, but perhaps just a really big scavenger. And now Nick Longrich, a paleontologist at Yale University thinks that T-rex may have also been a cannibal.
Nick Longrich first got the idea after noticing what appeared to be T. rex bite marks on the ancient toe bone of one of the killer beasts. After that discovery, he scoured fossil records in the United States and Canada, eventually coming up with three more instances of a T. rex apparently making a meal out of its own.
“Until now we had only one documented example of cannibalism in dinosaurs, so you’d tend to assume it’s pretty rare,” Longrich told LiveScience. “All of a sudden, we have four examples of cannibalism in T. rex. So that’s definitely a surprise.”
It’s not unusual for carnivores to chow down on their own species. A crocodile will happily eat another croc, while even pigs, which are omnivores, will eat a pig carcass if they can. What’s not clear is whether the T. rex was an opportunistic scavenger of T. rex carcasses, or whether the dinosaurs would actually fight one another. “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of some sort of intraspecies combat going on,” Longrich told National Geographic.