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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 08:49 GMT
Cuddly makeover for T rex
T. rex robotic model at London's Natural History Museum (PA)
Tyrannosaurus was one of the largest of the carnivorous dinosaurs
The mighty Tyrannosaurus rex may not have been as fearsome as its Hollywood image suggests.

British scientists say the dinosaur could have been a scavenger rather than a hunter.

An ecosystem as productive as the current Serengeti would provide sufficient carrion for such a scavenger

Glasgow team
Calculations show the environment at the time probably provided enough carrion to satisfy the "king" of the dinosaurs.

It is part of the emerging picture of a plodding, less aggressive T. rex.

American scientists proposed last year that prey caught in the gaze of the dinosaur had a good chance of staying alive if it could run fast enough.

Jurassic stroll

Their computer model suggested the six tonne creature was probably a bit of a slowcoach.

Drs John Hutchinson and Mariano Garcia came up with a top speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) for the beast.

It is more of a canter than the 72 km/h (45 mph) gallop that some scientists have postulated for the dinosaur and makes its Jurassic Park film image seem a little far fetched.

The latest study, by two scientists at Glasgow University, is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

'Nonsensical

Biologists Dr Graeme Ruxton and Prof David Houston say: "Based on analogy with existing animals, we calculate that an ecosystem as productive as the current Serengeti would provide sufficient carrion for such a scavenger.

"Hence Tyrannosaurus rex need not have been an active predator and could have survived purely by scavenging."

The idea that T. rex was more of a scavenger than a predator has proved controversial, however.

The American team described it as a "nonsensical debate" when they published their findings.

They said in a statement: "This dichotomy is false; living carnivores generally scavenge and hunt opportunistically."

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
30 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
18 May 99 | Science/Nature
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