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Were the Tiny Arms of the T. Rex Actually Useless?

Almost everything about the Tyrannosaurus rex says "ferocious," especially its 4-foot (1.2-meter) long jaw, designed for efficient bone-crushing, and its serrated teeth, likely used to grip and rip the flesh of its prey. But according to widespread belief, the T. rex's two-fingered, 3-foot (.9 m) long forearms, seemed pretty useless, and were certainly too short to reach the Tyrannosaurus rex's mouth. However, Steven Stanley, a paleontologist at the University of Hawaii, would disagree about those arms being so useless. His 2017 research suggests that the dinosaur’s arms were well-suited for “vicious slashing,” ending in four-inch (10 cm) claws that could open up deep wounds during close combat.

Short-armed and dangerous:

  • Over the years, scientists have argued that the T. rex’s small arms were only used to help resting dinosaurs push themselves up from the ground, or to grasp mates during copulation.
  • Stanley theorizes that the T. rex's shoulder joint, unusual for dinosaurs of its type, was almost a ball-and-socket joint that would facilitate a free-swinging mobility needed to slash prey.
  • Other paleontologists aren’t convinced. The T. rex's short arms would mean that “the Tyrannosaurus would basically have to push its chest up against the side of the victim,” one argued.
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