(ORDO NEWS) — With a length of 12.3 meters, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, was without a doubt a fearsome beast.
This predator roamed the territory of modern South Dakota about 67 million years ago at the end of the age of dinosaurs.
But even this huge dinosaur (named by scientists Sue), whose fossils are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, was not invulnerable. A prime example of this is the series of circular holes in its jawbone that continue to baffle scientists.
The Tyrannosaurus was named Sue, after the woman who discovered the fossil in 1990, but the dinosaur’s gender is unknown.
A new study designed to elucidate the nature of the origin of these holes has ruled out one main hypothesis, although there is still no definitive answer. The research paper was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
The researchers said a close examination of the eight holes on the back half of Sue’s left mandible, or mandible, showed they were not caused by a microbial infection, as some experts had suggested.
“The holes are different from bone damage caused by such an infection,” said study lead author Bruce Rothschild, physician and researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.
Tyrannosaurus Rex was one of the largest land predators ever to have inhabited western North America during the late Cretaceous.
Field Museum paleontologist and study co-author Jingmai O’Connor noted that about 15% of all known T.rex specimens have holes like Sue’s.
The bones around Sue’s holes show signs of healing, indicating that what caused them did not kill the animal.
Similarities have been observed between Sue’s healing and fracture healing in other fossilized bones, as well as bone healing around holes made in ancient Inca skulls in Peru.
“Honestly, I have no idea what shaped them,” O’Connor said. “I really don’t think it’s bite marks or claw marks.”
The holes weren’t the only damage done to the dinosaur, which lived to be about 33 years old.
“Sue was quite old when she died and shows numerous injuries and pathologies,” O’Connor said.
“She had gout. She fell on her right side, breaking her ribs – however, they healed.
She had a torn ligament on her right arm – this place has healed. She had a terrible bone infection in her left leg, as well as arthritis in her tail.”
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