Thursday, August 23, 2007

More Dino Speeds

Here we go- another study of dinosaur running speeds. When will these guys realise that the only way to definitively prove how fast a T. Rex could run is to develop a time machine and then send me back in time to the Cretaceous? I mean, really, computer models?

Scientists using computer models calculated the top speeds for five meat-eating dinosaurs in a study they say can also illustrate how animals cope with climate change and extinction.
Okay, so how do they measure up?

The velociraptor, whose speed and ferocity was highlighted in the film "Jurassic Park", reached 24 miles per hour while the T-rex could muster speeds of up to 18 miles per hour, the study published in the Royal Society's Biological Sciences showed.

"Our research, which used the minimum leg-muscle mass T-rex required for movement, suggests that while not incredibly fast, this carnivore was certainly capable of running and would have little difficulty in chasing down footballer David Beckham, for instance," said Phil Manning, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester, who worked on the study.

Not incredibly fast? Okay, it's no Ferrari but please- we're talking about a six ton predator that was some forty feet long and had teeth like steak knives. 18mph is plenty fast for that. I really can't wait for the time that palaeontology stops being compared to Jurassic Park.

The smallest dinosaur -- the Compsognathus -- could run nearly 40 miles per hour, about 5 miles per hour faster than the computer's estimate for the fastest living animal on two legs, the ostrich.

A top human sprinter can reach a speed of about 25 miles per hour.

For a handful of seconds- how long could T. Rex maintain its speed for?

I'm actually pretty shocked by the suggested speed of the Compy- that thing was about three feet long with a good deal of that being tail- and it's thigh is only about four inches long. I'm stunned that they estimate its running speed so high. An ostrich, by way of comparison, is some six feet tall with considerably stronger and sturdier legs- interesting to note that their computer model put it at 35mph but in reality it's top speed can be higher than 40mph. And according to this Times article on the study they also estimated the emus speed to be 29.8mph, slightly lower than the actual figure of 31mph. I wonder how long the Compsognathus could run that fast for? I'm guessing not long- little lizards can move pretty fast today so it's not too much of a stretch to imagine the tiny Compy zooming around. Seems I'm not the only one that's got a raised eyebrow about that result (and there's a little more detail on the way the study was conducted at that link)-

Not everyone is convinced by the approach, however. "Their method seems to work poorly for a small, chicken-sized dinosaur," says John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College in London, UK, who led the 2002 study of T. rex. The estimate for Compsognathus is "ridiculous," he says.

Dilophosaurus and Allosaurus were also tested in the study but their results don't seem to be of sufficient interest to report, not by CNN or The Times or even New Scientist that is- thankfully though Fox News comes to the rescue. Dilophosaurus was estimated to move at a speedy 23.5mph and the Allosaurus at 21mph.

No comments: