allosaurus vs. t-rex

m. werneburg, 2012.03.20

My son is, as I write this, four years old. He's been a rabid fan of dinosaurs for over half his life. Currently, his over-all favorites seem to be Iguanodon, Compsognathus, and Kentrosaurus. But curiously, he prefers the T-Rex to the Allosaurus. Here's why he's wrong.

In broad strokes, T-Rex and Allosaurus were very similar, both nasty monstrous dullards that made life on Earth miserable for just about every form of contemporary animal. They both had tiny brains shaped like those of crocodiles, which suggests just how personable and intelligent these things were; which is not at all. Apparently neither species had even the predatory sort of inquisitiveness that birds seem to have, nor is there apparently any proof that they hunted in coordinated ways. Instead, they just cycled through sleeping, mating, and biting into things to see if they could be eaten. Both species were noted cannibals. Aside from their speed, form, and ferocity, there's not much to recommend either animal.

an Allosaurus
sleek hunter
a T-rex
lumbering carrion eater

In short, they would have been dead-eyed bellowing brutes. They likely stank, too. But I think that Allosaurus was by far the more interesting, and it comes down to this: the T-Rex was a vast scavenger, a chewer through corpses; the Allosaurus was a leaner and certainly meaner hunter, using a wide-jawed bite to kill.

Allosaurus had a smaller and lighter frame, made for running and it had longer arms by far. The Wikipedia entry for the animal cites detailed study of breaks in those arms showed that the creature actually used those arms. It was a capable beast that ate what it killed. By comparison, the T-Rex was a massive lumbering critter that couldn't turn quickly, may not have been able to run, and would suffer terribly if it went down badly. This wasn't even the cunning sort of food-stealer that a lion is; the T-Rex would had just stumbled along, following its nose and screaming at anything that got between it and the next corpse.

Or so it seems to me, and while I'm neither a professional scientist nor a specialist in these animals I sure have had to answer a lot of questions, causing repeat investigation (I only make up answers to important stuff; for trivial matters I research my answers. I learned this from the Tao Te Ching but I may be misinterpreting things). So I've read many sources to The Boy and shown him every educational video made on the beasts in decades. And so there you have it; T-Rex gets all the glory in the eyes of four year olds but it was if anything just a more repulsive version of the other Tyrannosaurids that went before including the relatively sexy Allosaurus.

The Boy has been able, since shortly after his third birthday, to spot the difference between the two creatures by counting their fingers. And 'carrion', incredibly, was one of the first English words he could say. Hopefully I'll be able to someday convince him that T-Rex is nasty. Enlisting scholarly videos such as that below will doubtless help my cause.

Edit, 2017: Added link about T-Rex not running. My suspicion's been confirmed.

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reader comments

Whoops! Got the bug I hope. And about the meteor: dinosaurs were already on their last gasp when it hit. A million years before the big whammy there were 60 species of dino in T.rex's landscape; 900,000 years later this number had plummeted to 19, and by the time of the Chixulub event this had sunk to only nine. Bob Bakker blames the Asia-North America Species interchange, which also meant diseases were interchanged too. Epidemics like Ebola are a modern example of this. It should serve as a warning to us all.

Benjamin
2017.04.05

Thanks for your comment, Benjamin. Poor dinosaurs, beset by all manner of challenges at the end.

-Michael

Er, no, I don't have a link, but to be perfectly honest me and my twin brother did a lot of research of our own on Allosaurus (he's a T-rex nut) and, after watching the informative Jurassic Fight Club (which I highly recommend) we were wowed. An animal capable of strategic thinking HAS to be intelligent, don't you agree? T-rex was similarly intelligent: when you're the king of the killers in your environment, you don't need smarts, but if you're in a very competitive environment---and what preda

Benjamin
2017.01.28

Jurassic Fight Club looks brilliant, thanks for passing that along. I agree that the Allosaurus looks like it would have been a nightmare for everything living at that time. I wonder if the dinosaurs would have simply carried on out-competing everything if that meteor hadn't come. Also, I wonder if maybe a mid-life T. Rex might have been a lot like an Allosaurus - apparently the T. Rex filled several niches during its life, taking on different forms as it matured.

P.S. I see your comment got clipped. I apologize for that, but if it's any consolation your comment led me to a discover a bug introduced while fixing the previous issue last week.

-Michael

Yo. Forgive me, but I think your opinions about both Al and His Highness are both hogwash. Bellowing brutes with no brains? Allosaurus was at least as smart as a crow and capable of strategic thinking. So was T. rex. I'm an Allosaurus nut myself, but I believe, apparently unlike yourself, in giving credit where it's due. If your kid likes T.rex, big deal: he's FOUR, for Heaven's sake! He's a KID! Let him be a kid! We're only young once, and then never long enough!

Benjamin
2016.09.09

This made me smile. Do you have a link comparing Allosaurus intelligence to that of a crow? That's a huge reversal on anything I've ever read.

One of the interesting developments of the past few years is the possibility that many of the so-called species we've identified were really different forms of the same species at different stages in development.

http://phys.org/news/2015-10-adolescent-rex-unraveling-controversy-growth.html

It doesn't apply when comparing species from vastly different time periods, as we're doing, but I do find it amazing and fun that we're still learning so much.

Thanks for writing!

P.S. The kid's already 8 1/2. He claims to now have no preference between the two, but leans allosaurus.

-Michael

Interesting hypoyhesis you have there! However I disagree and here's why... Tyrannosaurus rex was 4 m longer than Allosaurus And had a bite force of up to 3,300lbs. Also Tyrannosaurus rex Had thick serrated teeth that could cut through bone and it had an infectious, toxic bite that could kill an animal of infection within hours! What kind of scavenger has all those things? The only reason it looks like T-Rex is a scavenger in your article is because you have found a bad illustration of T-Rex and have taken advantage of it. P.S: I think it's great (although slightly strange and illogical) of you to think of something one million miles outside of the box!

Riley Hall
2013.07.04

Hello, Riley;

Obviously there aren't too many scavengers like T-Rex, that's true. There's a BBC video that you can watch on Youtube that amongst other things shows the developmental stages of the T-Rex and shows how they lost the serrated knife-like teeth as they aged. At the same time, their snouts shortened. It's basically looking like the older animals were full-time scavengers and not hunters.

http://youtu.be/IEndtU0GniQ

Here's one of the sources on (adult?) T-Rex being too heavy and having far too little muscle mass to run.

http://stanford.io/YloAZk

There's nothing out there about T-Rex having a poisonous bite other than pure conjecture. The only claims that have been made on that front were about Sinornithosaurus, but those claims have been contested.

http://bit.ly/12JqcfR

Thanks for writing!

-Michael

rand()m quote

(In which I leave the final word to someone else.)

My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.

-Indira Gandhi

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