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Tyrannosaurus Rex Bigger, Hungrier Than Previously Thought, Study Finds

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TYRANNOSAURUS REX
A visitor looks at a the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex at the all-new 14,000 square foot Dinosaur Hall permanent exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles July 7, 2011 during a press preview. | AFP/Getty Images

The Tyrannosaurus rex, one of history's most fearsome predators, just got a bit more monstrous.

A new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, has shown that the already fabled carnivorous dinosaur was actually 30 percent bigger than scientists previously thought. The increase in estimated size of the T. rex comes from new analysis of five different skeletons, including the Chicago Field Museum's "Sue," which, according to Reuters, is the largest and most complete skeleton in known existence.

The study, carried out by scientists at The Royal Veterinary College and The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, used three-dimensionally scanned models of four fully grown T. Rex skeletons and one juvenile to create state of the art models of the creatures. Using this new model, researchers estimated that Sue weighed 9,500 kg (about 20,944 lbs), 30 percent more than expected.

According to The Telegraph, the Field Museum's Dr. Peter Makovicky said, "Previous methods for calculating mass relied on scale models, which can magnify even minor errors, or on extrapolations from living animals with very different body plans from dinosaurs."

The findings were substantial, but a bit varied. Oddly enough, according to Reuters, the juvenile skeleton actually weighed less than expected, suggesting that the dinosaurs grew twice as fast between 10 and 15 years of age than previous studies had indicated. That means they would have been eating 11 to 15 kg of meat per day.

"Just think how much meat that is," John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College in London told Reuters. "That's a hell of a lot of cheeseburgers ... it's a whole lot of duck-billed dinosaurs they needed to be chowing down on."

The study notes that there are some potential inaccuracies, including subjectivity and incomplete skeletons, but at the very least it helps to explain the T. rex's anatomy, namely its short arms, thick stomach, and strong hind legs:

Regardless, T. rex probably had hip and thigh muscles relatively larger than any extant animal's. Overall, the limb “antigravity” muscles may have been as large as or even larger than those of ratite birds, which themselves have the most muscular limbs of any living animal.

It's hard to imagine the Tyrannosaurus rex eating even more than it was believed to, but the find might not come as a shock to everyone. Last year, a different study suggested that the T. rex actually cannibalized its own kind, showing that it would potentially eat anything it could.

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