The world’s most famous dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex, could not move at high speed because its legs would have broken, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Manchester say the sheer size of T-Rex meant its leg bones would have buckled under its own weight load so it was effectively restricted to walking.
The test results contradict the running speeds predicted by previous biomechanical models which can suggest anything up to 45mph.
The study looked extensively into the gait and biomechanics of T-Rex and used high-performance computing technology to create a new simulation model to test its findings.
Led by Professor William Sellers from the university’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the researchers combined two separate biomechanical techniques, known as multibody dynamic analysis (MBDA) and skeletal stress analysis (SSA), into one simulation model which they said was more accurate.
Prof Sellers said: “The running ability of T-Rex and other similarly giant dinosaurs has been intensely debated amongst palaeontologist for decades.
“However, different studies using differing methodologies have produced a very wide range of top speed estimates and we say there is a need to develop techniques that can improve these predictions. Here we present a new approach that combines two separate biomechanical techniques to demonstrate that true running gaits would probably lead to unacceptably high skeletal loads in T-Rex.’
“Being limited to walking speeds contradicts arguments of high-speed pursuit predation for the largest bipedal dinosaurs like T-Rex and demonstrates the power of multiphysics approaches for locomotor reconstructions of extinct animals.”
The findings also meant running at high speeds was probably highly unlikely for other large two-legged dinosaurs such as Giganotosaurus, Mapusaurus, and Acrocanthosaurus, he said.
Prof Sellers continued: ‘Tyrannosaurus rex is one of the largest bipedal animals to have ever evolved and walked the earth. So it represents a useful model for understanding the biomechanics of other similar animals. Our previous simulations of theropod bipedal running did not directly consider the skeletal loading but these new simulations do calculate all the forces in the limb bones and these can be used directly to estimate the bone loading on impact.”