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Forelimbs of Tyrannosaurus Rex: A pathetic vestigial
organ or an integral part of a fearsome predator?
1. C. Lipkin and K. Carpenter, “Looking Again at the Forelimb of Tyrannosaurus Rex,” in Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Tyrant King, edited by P. Larson and K. Carpenter (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2008), pp. 167–190.
2. G. S. Paul, Predatory Dinosaurs of the World (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1988), p. 320.
4. K. A. Stevens, P. Larson, E. D. Wills, and A. Anderson, “Rex, Sit: Digital Modeling of Tyrannosaurus Rex at Rest,” in Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Tyrant King, edited by P. Larson and K. Carpenter (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2008), pp. 192–204.
5. H. F. Osborn, “Tyrannosaurus, Upper Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaur,” B. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 22, 281–296 (1906).
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10. R. A. DePalma II, D. A. Burnham, L. D. Martin, B. M. Rothschild, and P. L. Larson, “Physical evidence of predatory behavior in Tyrannosaurus rex,” P. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110, 1256–12564 (2013).
13. D. M. Henderson, “Estimating the masses and centers of mass of extinct animals by 3-D mathematical slicing,” Paleobiology 25, 88–106 (1999).
14. J. R. Hutchinson, K. T. Bates, J. Molnar, V. Allen, and P. J. Makovicky, “A computational analysis of limb and body dimensions in Tyrannosaurus rex with implications for locomotion, ontogeny and growth,” PLoS ONE 6 (10), e26037. doi:10.371/journal.pone.0026037, 1–19 (2011).
15. G. S. Paul, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2010), p. 297.
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In this paper, we examine a first-year torque and angular acceleration problem to
address a possible use of the forelimbs of Tyrannosaurus rex. A
1/40th-scale model (see Fig. 1) is brought to the classroom to introduce the
students to the quandary: given that the forelimbs of T. rex
were too short to reach its mouth, what function did the forelimbs serve? This
issue crosses several scientific disciplines including paleontology, ecology,
and physics, making it a great starting point for thinking “outside the
box.” Noted paleontologist Kenneth Carpenter has suggested that the
forelimbs of T. rex were an integral part of its predatory
behavior. Given the large teeth of T. rex, it is assumed that
they killed with their teeth. Lipkin and Carpenter1 have suggested
that the forelimbs were used to hold a struggling victim (which had not been
dispatched with the first bite) while the final, lethal bite was applied. If
that is the case, then the forelimbs must be capable of large angular
accelerations α in order to grab the animal attempting to escape. The
concepts of the typical first-year physics course are sufficient to test this
hypothesis by solving
Naturally, students love solving any problem related to Tyrannosaurus
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