Young, Hungry and Picky
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Many humans like drumsticks, not least because they are easy to eat.
So too did one young dinosaur, the Gorgosaurus libratus, which lived around 75 million years ago.
That’s according to paleontologists, who recently discovered the last meal of this relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, marking the first instance of a tyrannosaur’s stomach contents being identified and studied, CNN reported.
The teen dinosaur’s remains were initially excavated in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park in 2009.
During lab studies, the research team noticed a number of small bones in the Gorgosaurus’ ribcage which turned out to be the hind legs of two baby birdlike dinosaurs, both belonging to the species Citipes elegans, according to a new study.
“It must have killed … both of these Citipes at different times and then ripped off the hind legs and ate those and left the rest of the carcasses,” said co-author Darla Zelenitsky. “Obviously this teenager had an appetite for drumsticks.”
The juvenile tyrannosaur, weighing around 772 pounds and measuring 13 feet in length, was probably between five to seven years old at the time of its death. His prey would have been younger than one year old, according to the authors.
They explained that the findings are particularly significant because they offer valuable insight into the dietary patterns and preferences of juvenile tyrannosaurs.
The choice of meal shows that teen Gorgosaurus were picky eaters compared with their parents: The fossil indicates that juveniles likely hunted small and swift prey, as their bodies were not yet well-suited for tackling larger creatures.
The findings also address a long-standing puzzle in paleontology: The scarcity of small and midsize dinosaur fossils in the record, especially during the Mid- to Late Cretaceous Period.
“We are missing mid-sized … predators from that ecosystem. So yeah, there’s been the hypothesis that, the juvenile tyrannosaurs filled that niche,” added Zelenitsky.