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Archaeon Arena:

Facts Face-off


The furious Tyrannosaurus battles the gigantic Triceratops.

This legendary scene has been a hot debate. But has it ever
actually happened? And if they did fight….
Who won?
Tyrannosaurus was first discovered about 100 years ago.
Since then, 24 other sets had been unearthed – but none of
them were 100% complete.
However though, from the skeleton, the scientist could
know surprisingly quite lot about the dinosaur. Like, size for
instance. Or the places where the tendons and muscles used
to be. And so, they can flesh out the dinosaur.
While Triceratops, the Three-horned Face, was one
heavyweight opponent. Armed with three deadly horns and
weighs 8 tons, this dinosaur is one fearsome opponent for
the Tyrant King.
So, Triceratops versus T. rex. They both lived in North
America during the same time. But if they met, what would
have happened?
Until very recently, there has been no scientific proof that
they had interacted, or had anything to do with each other at
all – until Greg Erickson observed a pelvis of a Triceratops
more closely.
He found intriguing scars.
“If you look closely, you’ll find 80 of these punctures and
cut marks, he said.
More specifically, “These are bite marks.”
So, some other predator took some bite over this
Triceratops. Who is the crook, then?
Using common forensic method, Greg placed some elastic
material into the wound.
And he made quite a nice cast of the tooth.
“This reminds me of theropod tooth,” he said. “And it’s a
perfect match with this one, Tyrannosaurus rex.”
This is the first actual proof that Tyrannosaurus took some
chunk out of this beast.
Still though, this doesn’t prove T. rex actually killed a
T. rex probably just found the dead body if the Triceratops
on his way. So, did Tyrannosaurus actually able to slay a
living Triceratops?

Weapons: Tyrannosaurus
Greg Erickson thought that it could. But how much damage
could it done on a living Triceratops?
Bio-mechanic dinosaur is one way to answer the question.
Dave Payne and John Pennicot are expert engineers in
making special effects for movies. Shark movies, Bond
movies, they made the special effects on such.
This time, they will help the scientists by making a real-
sized model of a T. rex skull, based on Stan – one of three
near-complete Tyrannosaurus fossils ever found.
The model must be strong, because fossils proved that
when eating, T. rex can rip through bones.
So it will be made from pure steel.
Still, the technicians have to know how much force the jaws
have in order to move the models.
From the skeletons, the scientists know that T. rex have
huge jaw muscles. But before they test on whether T. rex
was powerful enough to take on a living Triceratops, they
must know exactly how strong these muscles were.
So they used crocodiles as a basis.
Crocodiles and alligators have the strongest bite than any
other living things. They’re also among T. rex’s closest living
Greg Erickson calculates, that if he can get the force
amount of a croc bite, he can scale it up to get the power of
T. rex’s bite.
So, Greg hitches a ride with the Florida Alligator Control
who was hoping to catch the wild gator that ate local dogs.
By the night, they started the hunt. After some chilling
silence and some death roll struggles, they finally managed
to get a 12 ft long and 450 pound heavy alligator (that’s the
same weight as 3 men!).
This wild beast is a perfect subject for Greg’s test. All he
had to do is to insert the measuring device in the right place.
“Ooh! Nice bite,” he said when the crocodile bit the device.
“2.209 pounds in a bite. 1 ton.”
Now, Greg can calculate the 1 ton measurement to find T.
rex’s bite force.
After 3 months of planning and pinpoint accurate scientific
calculations, the bio-mechanical T. rex is ready to test.
Based on his work on the alligators, Greg has calculated
that T. rex would’ve got a bite force for at least 4 tons. The
model of the skull had to be so strong, that the only way to
replicate it is by using steel. While the enormous bite power
is preserved by a hydraulic piston.
For the test, Greg uses a part of cow’s leg bone. He placed
it on the bio-mech jaw, and the bite force 8 times stronger
than a lion completely pulverizes the bone.
This dinosaur could definitely deliver a killer bite. However,
this test still doesn’t prove that T. rex really did attack
Triceratops. But amazingly, the fossil evidence does exist!
John Happ has fossil fragments of a Triceratops. This time,
dug up in Montana, USA.
First, the fossil of a damaged horn.
“When we first found the left horn, we were disappointed,”
he said, “because about a-third of the horn is missing.”
Looking more closely, he stated that the marks on the horn
indicated that the horn was bitten off. And the shape of the
mark proves that the one who broke the horn is
unmistakably T. rex.
However, like the previous evidence, this doesn’t prove that
T. rex attacked the Triceratops. But John has noted
something else.
“We found some additional bite marks,” he said. A line is
made where T. rex’s tooth damaged a part of the frill.
But there’s something strange about this line.
And when John did X-ray over the bone, the incredible truth
is revealed.
“The first scar mark was in the area of a dense bone. This is
an indication that the bone re-healed,” he stated.
This proves that the Triceratops was attacked by T. rex
while it was alive, and the Triceratops must’ve survive long
enough for the wound to heal.
This is also a proof that a T. rex isn’t just a scavenger. It
proves that at least on one occasion, it did attack
The scientist now know that the T. rex bit the horn and
broke it. They also know that the T. rex attacked the frill or
the same animal with enough force to crunch a bone.
But there’s still more to learn.
If T. rex ambushed Triceratops, it would have to move
quickly. So how fast could T. rex run?
He’s been depicted from a slowpoke to a beast that can
outrace a jeep. Some even speculated that he can run up to
45 miles an hour. So what’s the truth?

Speed and Agility

Jim Parlow from Indiana University observed one of the
world’s finest footprints fossil of a meat-eating dinosaur.
By calculating the distance of each footprint, Jim can
calculate how fast this dinosaur can run.
“Judging from the stride, I think this dinosaur just fast-
walked,” he stated, “about 7-8 miles an hour, that’s just the
same as jogging for human being.”
However, this can’t help in measuring T. rex’s top speed;
because T. rex is much larger than the dinosaur that left
those footprints.
“To find footprints of a striding or running Tyrannosaurus
we need a very big surface. And it might be hard to find one
that large,” he said. “So to calculate how fast T. rex could
run, we need something more than footprints.”
And so it’s the answer we’ll get.
John Huntchinson is studying the way animal run at the
Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, England. He
trained Sharon the ostrich to workout on a running machine.
And she’s helping him workout on how fast T. rex could run.
Ostrich’s legs are almost similar to T. rex’s. Skinny, with long
tendons stretched to the toes and muscles piled on the top.
“15% of the muscles were on the leg,” said John.
In fact, ostrich can reach up to 40 miles an hour.
“These leg muscles help the leg to work like a spring, and
his body is acting like a great weight bouncing up and down
on those springs,” he stated. “Much like a Pogo Stick.”
So could T. rex run as fast as an ostrich?
Based on Sharon, John estimates that T. rex needed double
the muscles he currently had on the leg. But that’s
impossible, not to mention the clue the fossil gave about the
placement of muscles and tendons.
So, T. rex is slower than an ostrich for sure.
“We calculated that a T. rex could move 25 miles an hour,”
he said, “or probably less than that.”
Maybe not too fast, but that’s the speed of Olympic
“Not bad for an animal that big. 25 miles an hour. If you see
T. rex moving that fast, it would be very impressive,” he
So, T. rex can run faster than most humans. But can it
outrace a Triceratops?
Thought twice, Triceratops was much more like a Sumo
wrestler, and his short front legs made long strides
“Probably no more than 15 miles an hour,” said John
So it’s now obvious on who could catch who. But is it?
Triceratops had one more trick up its sleeve.
Scientists were comparing the agility of the two dinosaurs
using rather unconventional experiment in Utah.
Dave Carrier found that there’s a down side of being a 40 ft
long T. rex running on just 2 legs.
“The problem is, T. rex’s legs were in the middle, while he
had a long and heavy body, neck, and head on the front; and
a long, heavy tail in the back,” he said.
Triceratops, on the other hand, has its weight balanced on
his all 4 legs.
So who had the advantage when it came to a chase?
Using similar principal, Dave and his student made a model
chase where Dave is the Triceratops and his student T. rex.
They both had a 26 pounds load to carry while they run.
Dave had his load in his backpack (balanced, like
Triceratops) while his student’s split a meter on the front and
a meter on the back (like a T. rex).
“If we run straight right now,” he stated as he run with his
student chasing as T. rex, “the T. rex back there would catch
me with ease. And if I turn in a gradual arc, so he will. But
watch what happened in the second or third turn.”
So he turned left, right, left, then further away in zigzag
pattern – and the ‘T. rex’ is left behind.
T. rex’s body shape gave him some serious disadvantage.
However though, speed and agility aren’t the whole story.

Brain Power
If T. rex was clever enough, he could’ve plan his attacks
and outsmart Triceratops. But in order to prove that theory,
scientists must look inside his brain.
Scott Rogers doesn’t think so. He’s one of some few people
in the world who tried to get into the mind of the dinosaurs.
“The problem in learning the brain in extinct creatures is
that the brain isn’t fossilized,” he said. “Instead, it used to
Until now, the scientists could only study the brains through
the Endocasts (mud that fills skull in where the brain used to
be). But Scott had an ingenious idea.
He looked inside this Endocast using latest medic
technology – MRI. He wanted to see if there was any trace of
brain left behind.
And the results he got were unexpected.
“For the first time ever, we see through to these matters,”
he pointed the scan results on some white blotch, “Which we
believed to be the structure of a brain.”
In comparison to modern species, apparently T. rex’s brain
resembles an alligator!
To know how exactly T. rex would react, is simply by testing
the reactions of an alligator.
For example, throw a stone into the water where gators
grouped. They’ll instantly move to the thrown object, not
thinking what it actually is. Move, catch, no questions asked.
So, obviously T. rex was kind of dumb.
However though, a little deeper researched he done on
Triceratops proved another thing.
While T. rex reacted pretty much like an alligator, the
Triceratops thought in a different way.
As he gains information through, it just passed the brain as
fast as it entered it.
So. Triceratops was even dumber than T. rex.
But still, there are still more to find out.

Sometimes, a success over a hunt depends on who sees
who first.
The fossils indicated that T. rex’s eyes were as big as an
orange. But how good was his sight?
Kent Stevens had the answer.
Using a laser-shot technique, he calculated the eyesight of
a T. rex, and a Triceratops.
Judging from the angles, he said that T. rex had a pretty
good vision. Two eyes, both were on the sides but heads
forward, making him able to see things in 3D.
“This looks more like a wolf,” he stated.
Like T. rex, a wolf had a pretty good eyesight as well. Two
eyes head forward like human, giving a sharp three-
dimensional perception with the snout in the middle as a
small block.
Meanwhile, Triceratops had an entirely different result.
Like most herbivores, Triceratops’ eyes were on the sides of
the head. This helps him to see things coming, including
This might lead him to safety. But he had a huge blind spot.
His frill gave him a great block over the view. He can’t look
“Probably he had to turn his head left and right to see
what’s behind him,” said Kent.
So, can be said that they had quite similar, counting that T.
rex react for what he thought food and Triceratops can still
see what’s coming, although with some time-wasting
But before the battle is remade, there’s still one more
bothering thing.

Weapons: Triceratops
The fossil that John Happ found indicates the frill of
Triceratops re-healed. It means he must’ve lived long
enough for the wound to heal…which also means he must
have fought back.
It is known that the horns the Triceratops wields were quite
effective weapons. But how exactly did he use it?
Time for another bio-mechanic model. But to build it, the
scientists must at least guess what it could do.
Andrew Farke is an expert on horned dinosaurs, and he had
a speculation on how Triceratops might use his horns.
It’d probably rushed forward, focused his body weight over
the horn and deals a devastating stab on the enemy.
So, the model must have its maximum speed on the set,
and for a more detailed result, the tools made for the skull
must be made of about the same strength as the real skull
is, and it must weigh the same.
As known, the maximum speed is 15 miles an hour; and it
weighs 8 tons. The speed will be preserved by making a
track, heading straight to ‘the T. rex’.
So now, the only problem is the ingredients for the skull.
After resembling the fossil pack, the engineers tested about
20 different and various resin combinations until they finally
found one recipe that could form the skull with similar
strength and characteristics of the real bone.
After months of work, the engineers and scientists unite in
the hangar where a car factory used to crush-test their cars.
The ‘Triceratops’ is prepared. Taking some distance in
which a real Triceratops would have if a T. rex attacked him,
weighing 8 tons, and had the max speed of 15 miles an hour,
the model is placed on a rail that headed straight to the ‘T.
It might looked more like a giant box than a T. rex, but it
represents a pretty similar characteristics over its flesh.
Made with aluminum piles in a shape of hexagonal
beehives, and covered with a skin-like material to act as the
T. rex flesh.
And so the Triceratops was launched.
The speed is gaining, and reaches 15 miles an hour. Then it
rushes to the flesh.
The rhinoceros attack took effect on this different head
The two bigger horns stabbed easily through to the ‘flesh’,
but as the head moves forward, the pressure increases to 6
tons and the rushing snout broke apart.
For a real Triceratops, this could mean certain death.
So Triceratops didn’t use his horns the way rhinoceros did.
But Andrew Farke found some strange marks on the frills of
This led him to another speculation over its use.
He thought that the scars were made during two
Ceratopsians conflict, mostly on mating season. Two
Triceratops fighting each other, their heads met, and then
they moved in a sharp angle and they crushed their horns on
another. And with their long horns, they might’ve left some
wounds on each other’s frill bones.
This also led Andrew to guess that if Triceratops used his
horns to go against another, they might also use it against
an enemy.
But the rhinoceros horns theory was wrong. So he
speculates that Triceratops used his horns more like a
“So it’ll head it right, then left, then right, that’ll cause a
devastating damage on the T. rex,” he said. This also means
the Triceratops doesn’t have to lose his snout and die.

So, the results are ready.
+ Tyrannosaurus Triceratops
Weapons Jaws, deadly Horns, deadly
Eyesight Good, but brains lack Effective, but not
Brain Dumb Dumb
Speed 25 m/h (faster) 15 m/h
Agility Not so much Good in chase

The comparison results seemed draw. So the battle results

depend on who made the first mistake, because the matter
of life and death here only had one chance…
So here’s what might happen by the Cretaceous on the
time T. rex passed by:

A hungry T. rex strode and sensed Triceratops. Not thinking

twice, it ran to the Triceratops. The Triceratops itself realized
T. rex’s encounter a little late, but still had enough time to
run. Although the T. rex outraced him, thanks to his agility
he can reduce the damage done. The T. rex, without plans in
his mind, struck forward and bit Triceratops’ left horn. A-
third of it broke, but the Triceratops still had one left. Trying
to deal more damage and do the fatal neck-bite, T. rex
struck again forward. It missed, but it bit the frill instead,
scratching the bone with his 4 tons bite power. But as the T.
rex walked a little backward for his next strike, the
Triceratops saw his chance and struck forward, stopped a
while, and swung his head left, right, and left again. His left
horn lost a-third of it already which made the right-side
swing meaningless, but the left swing side stabbed T. rex
with his right horn and it made a death blow. Judging from
the height, the stab landed through the stomach. The T. rex
fell, defeated, and waiting until his death came while the
Triceratops, having no idea what just happened, walked
away calmly as his frill bone re-healed in moments.

One lack for T. rex in his attacks is that he needed a little

distance over before he could do a deadly attack, because
without a distance, his attack power will be standard. With
some distance, he’ll gain energy in his attacks, like a plane
going takeoff. However, this gave Triceratops a split-second
advantage in battles, and if he used it well, death leads to
Tyrannosaurus for his little mistake which results fatal.

Report by Alfi R. R.