The Real T.Rex

3 Jan
2018

I’ve been wanting to restart my blogging for a while and thought with the advent of 2018 it was a good time to get on with it. I’m not sure how often I will be able to post or what I will want to post about but I do want to get to grips with the process of writing again as it is something I miss doing. So this is the first post of 2018 and it’s about a childhood passion of mine; dinosaurs. Specifically the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Last night BBC2 had a documentary about this incredible dinosaur and attempting to show what it actually looked like. The documentary was only an hour long but it was enough to keep the attention. It took all the latest research into this colossal extinct animal to try to present as realistic a visualisation as possible whilst seeking to dispel myths that have grown up as a result of both the needs of entertainment but also where knowledge was previously lacking.

The program whet my appetite to think more about these beasts. What were they like? How did they look? What was the ecosystem really like? How did they truly hunt? Now I’m not going to suddenly run off and start trying to be an expert in dinosaurs. I don’t have the attention span for a start, but I do think we need more programs like the one last night to bring cutting edge science to a wide audience. Obviously the T.Rex is the iconic poster dinosaur for most people, a 7 ton behemoth with a lot of big serrated teeth is going to fascinate people. There are other dinosaurs though that could do with programs of their own.

One area I think the documentary last night fell down is the isolation in which they treated the T.Rex. What I mean by that is that it looked at the mechanics of its incredible bite force, how fast it could run, colouration and all that but the one thing it didn’t do or attempt to do was to contextualise T.Rex. What was it’s environment like? How did that impact on evolution of the T.Rex? How did it get enough food to survive? There were aspects of this touched upon in terms of whether T.Rex was a pack hunter/ambush predator but I think there is scope for a deeper look at this and I’m sure we haven’t run out of material for T.Rex programs.

What really came home to me during the course of this program though was the amount of information we can garner from very little evidence. Apparently only about 25 T.Rex skeletons have ever been found, and yet modern science can delve around and try to understand muscle positioning and development, skin colour, brain development, and much else besides. Whilst T.Rex was the subject of the documentary the star for me was human inquisitiveness. We know so much now about dinosaurs in general and this dinosaur in particular because we want to and keep developing new means of trying to find out. We keep looking for new ways to analyse, or extrapolate or infer and as we unlock one secret we open up new avenues of research. In a world that too often shows us the worst of human greed, arrogance and mean spiritedness I was glad for an hour that showcased the greatest human attribute; curiosity.

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