Bug, Not Big Asteroid, May Have Killed T. Rex

A parasite that infects birds made it painful for the T. Rex to swallow and led to starvation, a new study suggests

By BJ Lutz
|  Tuesday, Sep 29, 2009  |  Updated 1:37 PM CDT
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Animals in the News

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The world's largest Tyrannosaurus Rex, named Sue, lives at Chicago's Field Museum.

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Get that dinosaur a lozenge.

New research indicates the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex may have died from starvation, caused by a sore throat that it made it uncomfortable to swallow.

The hypothesis developed after scientists took another look at holes in the jaws of Sue, a 42-foot-long, 13-foot high T. Rex at Chicago's Field Museum.

She's the largest, most complete and best preserved T. Rex fossil discovered, according to the Field Museum's Web site.

The holes were originally believed to be battle scars, but new research indicates it may actually have been a bacterial infection -- trichomonosis -- that caused the dinosaur to stop eating.

The parasite can still affect some present-day birds.

"We have evidence of several tyrannosaurs that were severely affected by the parasite," said Dr. Ewan Wolff of the University of Wisconsin.

There's no evidence of trichomonosis in other dinosaur species, Wolff said, indicating the parasite would have been passed from one T. Rex to another, most likely through saliva or by cannibalism.

Previous hypotheses of why dinosaurs became extinct included a giant asteroid that hit the coast of Mexico 65 million years ago.

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