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Wednesday, 15 April, 1998, 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK
Large dinosaurs may not all have been slow - but they were certainly clumsy, tripping over themselves in their race for food, research suggests.

Scientists believe that certain two-legged dinosaurs ran so fast after their prey that they nose-dived, cracking their ribs with the impact of the fall.

X-rays of skeletons of a predatory dinosaur called Allosaurus show fractures suggesting it suffered spectacular belly-flops.

Bruce Rothschild, of the Arthritis Centre of Northeast Ohio, believes the fractures show not all large two-legged dinosaurs were the sluggish creatures some experts suggest.

"They were active and could survive when injured," he told New Scientist magazine.

Allosaurus is related to the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex but half the size, weighing between one and three tonnes.

In 1995, James Farlow of Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, suggested Tyrannosaurus Rex could not have run faster than 36 km/hour because otherwise a fall would have been lethal.

But the lighter Allosaurus, which carried its head closer to the ground than Tyrannosaurus Rex, may have been able to trip over and recover after cracking a few ribs.

Still smaller dinosaurs of the two-legged theropod family may have been able to race along without fearing the consequences.

"I suspect that some of those guys could have run like bats out of hell," said Mr Farlow.

So far studies of Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons have not revealed bone breaks characteristic of a forward fall.

Mr Rothschild presents his results this week at the Dinofest Exhibition in Philadelphia.

Family values for T-Rex

According to another New Scientist article, Tyrannosaurus Rex was also probably a family-orientated animal, which bonded for life and lived in close family groups with its young.

Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex found, was discovered in what looked like a family group with a male and two youngsters.

The group, which later this year goes on display at the Denver Museum of Natural History in Colorado, is not an isolated example, according to the New Scientist.

Peter Larson, from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota, said: "T-Rex probably organised into highly social, protective and co-operative family groups."

But despite the harmonious picture there was also evidence of trouble and strife.

Tyrannosaurs sometimes bore teeth marks Bites on Sue's skull showed she died after the left side of her face was almost torn off by another T-Rex.

See also:

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