The skull is from a dinosaur known as Daspletosaurus, a smaller cousin of the huge Tyrannosaurus rex, which weighed around 500 kilograms. Previous research raised suspicions of cannibalism in the genus and this skull provides further evidence of that, according to the BBC.
Cannibalism in both Tyrannosaurus rex and Daspletosaurus
Scientists claim that the specimen received many wounds during its life, as the result of vicious fighting, and was later bitten by a scavenger after its death. “This animal clearly had a tough life, suffering numerous injuries across the head including some that must have been quite nasty,” said Dr David Hone from Queen Mary, University of London.
“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.”
It is estimated that the cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex was around six meters in length, and its remains were discovered in a quarry in Alberta, Canada, in 1994. The skull is currently located in Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum, and lead study author Dr Hone, along with colleague Darren Tanke, has now described its wounds in detail.
Although not all of the injuries were due to bites, a significant number of them match the shape of tyrannosaur teeth. One particularly nasty bite even left a tooth-shaped puncture hole in the back of its head, but the bone shows signs of healing, which would suggest that the injuries did not kill the young dinosaur.
Competitive period for large predators
The exact cause of death is not known, and additional bite marks on the jaws seem as though they were made by a scavenger. The shape of the teeth marks suggest that it may have been scavenged by another large tyrannosaur, potentially of the same species, but scientists cannot be sure of that
A previous study discovered cannibalism in Tyrannosaurus rex, and researchers say that it “cannot be ruled out” in Daspletosaurus. The evidence is irrefutable in the case of Tyrannosaurus rex because there were no other large predators that had big enough teeth alive at the same time and place. However Daspletosaurus could have been eaten by a Gorgosaurus, which was alive at the same time in the same part of what is now Canada.
Whatever the exact cause of death, it is certain that both the Tyrannosaurus rex and Daspletosaurus lived in competitive and dangerous times, and the dinosaurs fed on both prey and scavenged meat.