Getting inside the T. rex

2015-06-09 11:49

AT 14 metres long, nearly two metres wide and lying lifeless in a specially constructed biology lab, the world’s first full-size, anatomically complete recreation of a Tyrannosaurus rex awaits dissection.

In National Geographic Channel’s new two-hour special, T. rex Autopsy, four intrepid scientists get to the heart (literally) of what made this fearsome creature tick.

Premiering tonight on DStv channe 181, T. rex Autopsy kicks off a week of dinosaur programming that includes Dino Death Match, T. rex: Ultimate Survivor, Bigger Than t. rex and the two-hour special Top Ten Biggest Beasts Ever.

This experiment also offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore questions such as whether or not T. rex had feathers; how it fed with tiny arms; whether it was primarily a hunter or scavenger; how it digested food; how old it lived to be; how it procreated; and whether it was warm-blooded like a mammal or cold-blooded like a reptile.

Using cutting-edge special effects techniques and in collaboration with veterinary surgeons, anatomists and palaeontologists, T. rex Autopsy illuminates the latest research and findings about Tyrannosaurus rex.

In their quest to document, x-ray and scan the T. rex, however, the experts must cope with unexpected surprises — such as the overwhelming smell manufactured for its innards — as they saw through bone, wade through blood and slice through muscle to determine how this 65-million-year-old beast may have lived — and died.

Employing industrial-sized tools, veterinary surgeon Dr Luke Gamble, who specialises in large animal medicine, leads a group of palaeontologists that includes Dr Tori Herridge, Dr Steve Brusatte and Matthew T. Mossbrucker, in cutting it open.

Herridge, who has previously conducted an autopsy on a woolly mammoth from the Ice Age, said: “The chance to take palaeontological evidence and transform that into something tangible in the real world, something we can all recognise and appreciate without expert knowledge, is very special.

“Not to give too much away, but one of the most interesting things we learnt is that the size of the T. rex heart was not one percent of the body size that is typical in mammals and birds, it was actually smaller than we might have predicted. A bigger heart just would not have fit inside the chest cavity.

“It took delving under its dual rib cages, getting blood all over my arms, to find that out!”

Half gruesome monster film, and all science, T. rex Autopsy is a must for dinosaur fanatics.

— Arts Editor.

Other shows screening in National Geographic Channel’s Dino Week:

• Top 10 Biggest Beasts Ever, tomorrow at 8.05 pm — Before man ruled the world, Earth was a land of giants. From birds with plane-length wingspans, to dinosaurs rivalling a Boeing 737, the programme goes in search of the truth behind these monsters, counting down the 10 largest and most extraordinary finds. Visual stunts and surprising size comparisons bring each beast vividly back to life.

T. rex: Ultimate Survivor on Wednesday, June 10 at 8.05 pm — Tyrannosaurus rex, the famous king of dinosaurs, was a top predator of its day. But new fossils are revealing that the life of T. rex and its cousins was brutal. Fossils are probed with cutting-edge techniques to reveal the source of injuries, predation attempts that went wrong and titanic battles where T. rex teeth were sunk into their adversaries.

Dino Death Match on Wednesday, June 10 at 9 pm — A fossil known as the Duelling Dinosaurs depicts predator and prey as they died in combat. It may also be central to a controversial debate: does it provide evidence proving the existence of a separate tyrannosaur species?

•Bigger Than T. rex on Thursday, June 11 at 8.05 pm — It is the largest killer ever to walk the earth. This is Spinosaurus. Its massive proportions, and the two-metre sail lining its back, make it one of the most bizarre creatures ever discovered. Archival photographs and drawings are matched with CT-scanned bones to make Spinosaurus the first life size predatory dinosaur machined from a digital model. The new data confirms it was 15 metres in length and was also amphibious. — Arts Editor publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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