Tyrannosaurs fought and ate each other

Illustration of a scavenging tyrannosaur

Tyrannosaurs, shown in this artist’s illustration, both hunted for food and scavenged, which is probably how bite marks ended up on the skull of a young Daspletosaurus unearthed at Canada’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.

© Tuomas Koivurinne

The Cretaceous period was a tyrannosaur-eat-tyrannosaur world. Bite marks from before and after death scar the skull of an ancient tyrannosaur called Daspletosaurus, researchers report April 9 in PeerJ.

Paleontologists identified a fossilized skull and jaw as that of a teenage Daspletosaurus, a cousin to Tyrannosaurus rex. Some pre- and postmortem marks on the bones correspond to bite marks — big enough to come from the teeth of a Daspletosaurus or another tyrannosaur. The marks could be evidence of both combat and cannibalism, the scientists conclude.

It’s not unheard of for tyrannosaurs to fight or eat each other, but understanding the prevalence of such behavior lends insight into the extinct reptiles’ ecology.

Based on regions of healed bone around bite marks found on the Daspletosaurus fossils above, researchers concluded that some of the injuries must have occurred before death and may have been the result of fighting between tyrannosaurs. Scale bar is 10 centimeters. David Hone
Though the bones of a recently studied Daspletosaurus show evidence of bite marks, a scenario like that depicted above probably wasn’t behind this dinosaur whodunit. Instead, the arrangement of the bones points to drowning, disease or injury. © Luis Rey
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the associate digital editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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