Researchers have found evidence of cannibalism in a particularly large and aggressive dinosaur species that once inhabited North America, giving credence to the theory that at least some prehistoric beasts had a taste for their own kind.
After closely analyzing the fossilized skull of a Daspletosaurus discovered in Canada in 1994, researchers found that the dinosaur had suffered injuries not just during combat with other dinosaurs but also postmortem, indicating that it became someone else’s dinner in death, according to a study published Thursday in the journal PeerJ.
Daspletosaurus was a large carnivore that lived in Canada and was only a little smaller than its more famous cousin Tyrannosaurus. Like other tyrannosaurs it was most likely both an active predator and scavenger. The individual in question, from Alberta Canada, was not fully grown and would have been just under 6 metres long and weighed around 500kg when it died.
Researchers found numerous injuries on the skull that occurred during life several of which are close in size and shape to the teeth of tyrannosaurs. Indications of healing on the bone’s surface mean that these injuries were not fatal and the animal lived for some time after they were inflicted.
Lead author Dr David Hone, a lecturer in ecology at QMUL, said: “This animal clearly had a tough life suffering numerous injuries across the head including some that must have been quite nasty. The most likely candidate to have done this is another member of the same species, suggesting some serious fights between these animals during their lives”.
There is no evidence that the animal died was killed another tyrannosaur but it’s thought that after the specimen began to decay a large tyrannosaur bit into the animal and ate at least part of it.
Combat between large carnivorous dinosaurs is already known and there is evidence for cannibalism in various groups, including tyrannosaurs. This is however an apparently unique record with evidence of both pre- and post-mortem injuries to a single individual.