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Tyrannosaur pack-hunting theory aided by new footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

One Tyrannosaurus Rex hunting down its prey is terrifying enough. (Via Archbob / CC0 1.0)

But what if instead of just one T-Rex in Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," Ian Malcolm was being chased by a gang of tyrannosaurs? (Via Universal Pictures / "Jurassic Park")

A new study gives more backing to the controversial theory that the prehistoric apex predator was less lone wolf and more wolf pack in terms of hunting its prey - as seen in this BBC animation.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, claim the scientists discovered the "world's first trackways" imprinted by three different tyrannosaurs about 70 million year ago - seen here dug into a rocky surface in the outskirts of British Columbia, Canada. So what tipped the researchers off that the terrifying predators hunted together? Several tridactyl footprints on three separate trackways in a close 9-meter proximity which all seem to be pointed in the same direction.

Richard McCrea of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre said, "This is about the strongest evidence you can get that these were gregarious animals. The only stronger evidence I can think of is going back in a time machine to watch them."

The idea of tyrannosaur pack hunting is also not new.

University of Alberta paleontologist and study co-author Dr. Philip Currie has been researching the concept for a over decade. (Via YouTube / University of Alberta)

He brought the gang-hunting theory to the public in the 2011 Discovery Channel documentary series called "Dino Gangs," with one episode unearthing a massive tyrannosaur grave.

Narrator: "68 huge tyrannosaur skeletons discovered in one location. What happened? ... One scientist has a controversial theory."
Dr. Philip Currie: "They hunted in deadly, bloodthirsty packs."

As appealing as it sounded at the time, National Geographic science writer Brian Switek said those mass graves weren't enough to convince him tyrannosaurs were "communal carnivores." But the new footprints give the theory more credibility.

Saying while "[The] bonebed is ambiguous evidence for social behavior, a trackway showing that tyrannosaurs walked together would be a much clearer sign of social tyrants."

And that at least seems to make sense. Tyrannosaur fossils are popping up a lot these days but the researchers and Switek both point out finding actual footprints is quite rare.

Switek reported on one other footprint finding in Australia in 2010 - which was believed to a "large theropod dinosaur" - but he said it's unlikely to be a tyrannosaur track. (Via Smithsonian Magazine)

Now, the researchers for the recent study also dug up footprints from other prehistoric dinosaurs, but - unlike the tyrannosaur - those footprints were heading in all sorts of different directions. Further evidence, they said, to suggest the tyrannosaur indeed hunted in packs.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
crowland503 July 25 2014 at 1:02 AM

Why worry about a pack of T-Rex's when the IRS, NSA, FBI, EPA, ATF, FWS, and the other federal horde are after your ass!!!

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11 replies
Shirley July 24 2014 at 11:52 PM

not saying the profs and scientists are wrong, but it could have been a trail used by many that day

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7 replies
GH July 25 2014 at 10:52 AM

Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Durbin, Hoyer, Holder, Boxer, Sheila Jackson Lee,now that's a pack in hunt mode, hunting down the America I used to know, bringing it to its knees and devouring it till it's dead!

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1 reply
swimdude1978 GH July 25 2014 at 2:31 PM

Nah, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, George W Bush with Dick Cheney thrown in are the most deadly predators to have ever walked this planet. They have been the most destructive too. They are directly responsible for 14 Trillion of the 17 Trillion in Debt that this country has. Very deadly indeed....

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Mike July 25 2014 at 6:04 AM

Did the footprints include high heel marks? I know Palin was in there somewhere.

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4 replies
Shrubbutcher July 25 2014 at 11:12 AM

Maybe it was mating season?

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MICHAEL July 25 2014 at 10:01 AM

i think its a littel early on to start saying they hunted in packs. maybe they were just running from something. LIKE A KILLER ASTEROID. LOL.

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2 replies
ameliabelladonna MICHAEL July 25 2014 at 10:23 AM

That's pretty good :-)...lol.

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SumBreezeHuh MICHAEL July 25 2014 at 1:22 PM


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vrf19977 July 25 2014 at 10:22 AM

Or there were more than one that just happened to travel in the same area around the same time... this doesn't "prove" jack squat about them "hunting in packs". Oy veh. Science loves to make claims with very, very little "proof" of anything.

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3 replies
jigokurei July 25 2014 at 12:46 AM

No evidence of coordinated pack hunting; more like opportunistic hunting. Gulls and Crows flock together but do not share; if one gull or crow finds food others will attempt to harass it until it either drops the food or regurgitates it. Interestingly enough, it is believed that Great White sharks in S. Africa hunt in packs; they do, but opportunistically. That is, sharks too will regurgitate food if harassed by another shark. However, it has been video taped and recorded that sharks will feast on dead whales together, but an overly aggressive shark won't hesitate to bite another shark for getting too close. This has more to do with younger or weaker birds and or sharks standing a chance, or opportunity; of possibly getting a scrap from a small kill to getting a meal from a large kill. This is to say, gulls, crows, and sharks do not work together to kill or eat; it just happens out of chance & convenience and opportunity. Pack hunting is reserved to whales, wolves, chimpanzee, and lion

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3 replies
chris3528matthews July 25 2014 at 2:06 AM

sorta like gang members

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2 replies
chris3528matthews chris3528matthews July 25 2014 at 2:12 AM

all humans kill for no reason, animals kill for survival

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thorrsman chris3528matthews July 25 2014 at 6:15 AM

chris3528matthews Incorrect. Those humans who kill--and not all humans kill--do so for various reasons.

The reason a soldier kills in battle differs from the reason that a gangbanger kills in his 'hood, and the reason a housewife kills an intruder is different from either of them.

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1 reply
houcasey thorrsman July 25 2014 at 7:13 AM

Actually, Thorrsman, the soldier and the gangbanger kill for the same reason. Their gang leader or superior officer told them to.
One might be more altruistic than the other but usually it's to take something from someone else or teach someone a lesson.
Not unlike Europeans killing native Americans to steal their land or declaring war on Afghanistan and Iraq to teach Al Quaeda a lesson.

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havingfun8910 July 25 2014 at 2:26 AM

You people have NO F ING clue what happened 70 million years ago!

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2 replies
flowertreebutterf havingfun8910 July 25 2014 at 6:52 AM

No clue, huh?

Obviously, you have never studied science!

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JOHN havingfun8910 July 25 2014 at 8:47 AM

Actually, there is an abundance of evidence on things that happened 70 million years ago. Not everything, of course, but much of it.

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