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ERIC Number: EJ1046803
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Dec
Pages: 4
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Forelimbs of "Tyrannosaurus Rex": A Pathetic Vestigial Organ or an Integral Part of a Fearsome Predator?
Lee, Scott A.; Thomas, Joshua D.
Physics Teacher, v52 n9 p521-524 Dec 2014
In this paper, we examine a first-year torque and angular acceleration problem to address a possible use of the forelimbs of "Tyrannosaurus rex." A 1/40th-scale model (see Fig. 1) is brought to the classroom to introduce the students to the quandary: given that the forelimbs of "T. rex" were too short to reach its mouth, what function did the forelimbs serve? This issue crosses several scientific disciplines including paleontology, ecology, and physics, making it a great starting point for thinking "outside the box." Noted paleontologist Kenneth Carpenter has suggested that the forelimbs of "T. rex" were an integral part of its predatory behavior. Given the large teeth of "T. rex," it is assumed that they killed with their teeth. Lipkin and Carpenter have suggested that the forelimbs were used to hold a struggling victim (which had not been dispatched with the first bite) while the final, lethal bite was applied. If that is the case, then the forelimbs must be capable of large angular accelerations a in order to grab the animal attempting to escape. The concepts of the typical first-year physics course are sufficient to test this hypothesis by solving a = t/I. Naturally, students love solving any problem related to "Tyrannosaurus rex"!
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A