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Research finds Tyrannosaurus rex was unable to run

University of Manchester researchers investigating the gait and biomechanics of the T.rex have concluded that the animal would be unable to run as its leg bones would have buckled under the animal’s weight.

This new theory, while good news for Jeff Goldblum, dispels a long held myth about Tyrannosaurus as the animal’s running speed had previously been estimated to be as much as 45 MPH.

Led by Professor William Sellers from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the researchers have combined two separate biomechanical techniques, known as multibody dynamic analysis (MBDA) and skeletal stress analysis (SSA), into one simulation model. This new model creates a more accurate analysis of the dinosaurs biomechanical motion which also accounts for the loads and the stress on the animal's skeleton. The research, published in the journal PeerJ, uses a new simulation model created by the high-performance computing technology provider N8 High Performance Computing (HPC).

Professor Sellers from the University of Manchester explained that the results demonstrate that any running gaits for Tyrannosaurus would most likely lead to ‘unacceptably high skeletal loads.'

Sellers continued: ‘the running ability of T. rex and other similarly giant dinosaurs has been debated intensely amongst the palaeontologist community for decades. However, different studies using differing methodologies have produced a 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’ Sellers concluded.

Although the research focuses on the Tyrannosaurus, the findings also mean running at high speeds were probably highly unlikely for other giant two-legged dinosaurs such as Giganotosaurus, Mapusaurus, and Acrocanthosaurus.

Dr Sellers adds: ‘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. Therefore, these finding may well translate to other long-limbed giants so but this idea should be tested alongside experimental validation work on other bipedal species.’

This isn’t the first time MBDA and SSA have been used to measure the walking and running ability of dinosaurs. However, this study represents the first time that these models have been used together to create a model that not only interprets biomechanical action but also the loads and how they are distributes across the skeletal structure as the animal moves.

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