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Subject: Dinosaurs

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Date Posted: 00:01:13 06/22/05 Wed

T Rex were sickly beasts, frequently with unsightly sores, tumours and other signs of disease.

This unflattering view of Tyrannosaurus rex and its fellow Tyrannosauridae - including Albertosaurus, Daspletosaurus and Gorgosaurus - comes after an in-depth check-up of the pits, ridges and gouges preserved in the fossilised jaws of 56 of the two-legged meat-eaters.
Nearly 30 per cent of the jaws were abnormal, said Ewan Wolff, a palaeontologist with Montana State University in Bozeman.
"[i]We think of T-rex as an incredibly hardy predator, but it got sick a lot more than we thought[/i]" - Mr Wolff, who studied the telltale remains as part of his doctoral thesis with palaeontologist David Varricchio.
Moreover, Mr Wolff said the big beasts got sicker more often than related species of the time, including crocodiles. Their remains show evidence of disease in about one in 100 cases.
It's too early to know precisely what sort of disease ravaged the scarred dinosaurs, who lived 80 million to 65 million years ago, but it might have been triggered by poor diet, said Mr Wolff, who will present his findings in Cairns next week at the Wildlife Disease Association's international conference.
He said the tyrannosaurid bones showed evidence of healed injuries, possibly obtained during fights.
"[i]Researchers have talked about some form of head-biting behaviour among tyrannosaurids[/i]"
In Brisbane, University of Queensland palaeontologist Steve Salisbury agreed a deficient dinosaur diet might have led to a systemic illness that caused the abnormalities found by Mr Wolff.
"[i]It looks a little bit like the type of disease you get in birds that relates to vitamin D or calcium deficiency which softens the bone…Maybe they weren't eating enough bones[/i]"
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