T. rex's Arms Weren't Wimpy. They Were Made for Lovin'.
These days, most people seem to have no problem ridiculing Tyrannosaurus rex's seemingly puny arms. Of course, this might have something to do with the fact that the 7-ton carnivorous killing machine is about 65 million years removed from modern society. Fossil skeletons of T. rex simply don't deter mockery as well as the real thing.
But let's say, quite hypothetically, that you and Tyrannosaur decided to go bowling and you chose that time to deride the dinosaur for having poor form. Not only would you probably find yourself bloodily decapitated and promptly scarfed, you'd actually be dead wrong.
I'm not saying that T. rex would be a prodigious bowler by any means. But it probably wouldn't be terrible either. Though the carnivore would have some trouble picking up the ball at first, it could -- with some maneuvering -- likely chuck that ball down the length of the alley... through the air.
Contrary to popular belief, T. rex sported surprisingly strong forelimbs. Though disproportionate to its forty-foot-long frame, the reptile's 3-foot arms could easily curl approximately 430 pounds of weight! Most humans can't muster a tenth of that.
So what did T. rex do with its not-so-wimpy arms? Paleontologists still aren't precisely sure, but the forelimbs likely served dual purposes for eating and loving. Yes, loving. A key clue comes courtesy of skeletal analysis: It appears that the arms could only swivel a mere 40 degrees at the shoulder and 45 degrees at the elbow. (For reference, humans have 360-degree capabilities at the shoulder and 165 at the elbow.) Such a restriction indicates that the arms were likely only used to grasp objects and hold them in place.
One of these objects, researchers surmise, was likely a struggling, squirming prey. T. rex would dig its hook-like claws into the animal, preventing it from escaping. Then, T. rex would angle its killer head, equipped with a vicious, incisor-lined jaw, for the perfect chomp. The male T. rex may have also made use of its arms to grasp the female, allowing him to assume a mating position.
So T. rex had strong arms potentially made for loving. In consideration of this knowledge, perhaps it's time to select another extinct reptilian target to make fun of? Luckily for us, about 70 million years ago another dinosaur was prowling South America with far more diminutive forelimbs.
"Carnotaurus... had arms that might have not even stuck outside of its body cavity," paleontologist and science writer Brian Switek recently said on Science Friday. "Even Tyrannosaurus rex would laugh at this other dinosaur."
(Images: 1. Tyrannosaurus via Shutterstock 2. Carnotaurus by by Lida Xing and Yi Liu via Wikimedia Commons)