Researchers at the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Alberta recently made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of paleontology. A 75-million-year-old fossil revealed the preserved stomach contents of a tyrannosaur, providing unprecedented insight into the diet of these fearsome predators.
The young Gorgosaurus libratus, a cousin of the T. rex, was found with the near-intact remains of two baby dinosaurs inside its stomach cavity. The prehistoric creature was believed to be between 5 and 7 years old and would have weighed about 772 pounds at the time of its death. What’s particularly intriguing is that the two prey species, identified as Citipes elegans, were less than a year old, according to the researchers. The Gorgosaurus only consumed the hind legs of each young dinosaur, leaving the rest of the carcasses virtually untouched.
This recent discovery is a significant milestone in paleontological research. Darla Zelenitsky, a paleontologist and associate professor at the University of Calgary, described the finding as “particularly exciting,” emphasizing how rarely dinosaur guts and strong evidence of their diets are preserved in the fossil record. This is the first time that the stomach contents of a tyrannosaur have been identified, making it an invaluable piece of evidence for researchers.
Moreover, the revelation sheds light on the dietary changes that tyrannosaurs underwent as they matured. The study’s co-senior author, François Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, noted that the fossil provided the first direct evidence of a long-suspected dietary pattern among large predatory dinosaurs. The findings indicate that the young Gorgosaurus was likely hunting small, fast prey, as its body was not yet developed to handle larger prey.
The groundbreaking discovery has provided researchers with new perspectives on the behavior and diet of juvenile tyrannosaurs, as well as their role in shaping dinosaur ecosystems. It also raises questions about how young predators influenced the diversity of dinosaur species in the middle and late Cretaceous period.
This unique fossil, with its remarkably preserved stomach contents, has opened new avenues for exploring the ancient behaviors and relationships of apex predators like the tyrannosaurs, enriching our understanding of prehistoric Earth.