T. Rex Hands Only A Mother Could Love


“nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands” wrote e.e. cummings. Not about the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s diminutive appendages, but nobody can be too sure. The T. Rex inhabits every childhood dream on dinosaurs—the massive and scaly creatures that roamed this earth 100 million years ago1. If asked “what the most dangerous and powerful dinosaur was?” any sensible kid would respond “aye, the T. Rex.” With it’s oversized body, ground-shaking tail, and cavernous maw filled with row upon row of glistening teeth, how could it be anything but awe-inspiring. But its one oft-overlooked fault is its seemingly useless arms and hands—really, what could a creature do with arms like that?

For a long while, paleontologists just assumed its hands were for nothing. Many creatures has vestigial structures that once had a use, but then go out of style and mostly sit around in the gene pool slowly deteriorating over time. Two good examples in humans are the appendix and wisdom teeth.

Sara Burch, a researcher at Stony Brook University, in New York has spent a considerable amount of time contemplating the purpose of T. Rex arms and recently presented her findings at the annual meeting for the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Burch concludes that T. Rex arms were used for something, she just doesn’t know what yet.

Her reasoning is as follows: looking at muscle attachments points historically over the known T. Rex ancestry, if the record shows signs of atrophying over time then they could accurately be labeled vestigial. The record didn’t show it though. Instead it traced seemingly random patterns of strengthening and weakening but not a downward trend.

At around 70 million years ago, right before the T. Rex emerged, there was a noticeable change in the way the muscles functioned. As The Economist reports:

The animals’ forearms, for example, increased their ability to flex in the way that a human flexes his biceps. Their ability to pull their arms close in towards their torsos was reduced. Their ability to draw their arms out away from their bodies, however, went up.
 

The only thing left to do is wonder what those hands could be used for. Airspace theories include: patty-cake, conga drumming, cross stitch, playing the piano, sign language, spirit fingers, gesturing to emphasize a point in discussion, push ups, magic tricks, hand jive, and carrying baskets.

1The T. Rex lived closer in time to humans (60 million year difference) than it did to early dinosaurs (150 million year difference)


Attribution

The Economist


Commentary Ticker

  • Google Glass Lets You Take Photos With Your Brain
    July 12, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been getting better. Way better. Artificial limbs and even video game controllers are utilizing the non-invasive brain-wave monitoring method to guide computers by thought. Now English startup This Place has developed a way to bring the technology to Google Glass, allowing Google’s wearable to read your mind. Well, […]

  • Android Art: The Accidental Selfies of Google Art Project
    July 5, 2014 | 11:11 am

    Within the cultural centers of the world lurks a mechanical beast draped in silver spinning madly and capturing everything, sometimes even itself. In 2011 Google created the Art Project, an initiative to bring their Street View technology inside the cultural epicenters of the world. Google enlisted 17 world-class museums in short time. Institutions such as […]

  • Purple Mountunes Majesty: The Most Patriotic Playlist
    July 4, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    A while ago, Paul Lamere of The Echo Nest, a music-analysis company, took to finding each state’s most distinctive, yet popular, artist in a viral article. Spotify took note, purchasing Echo Nest for their analytical talent. Together, they’ve released a blog post documenting each state’s most distinctively American song creating a patriotic playlist for the […]

  • Emojinealogy: Where the Heck Emojis Come From
    July 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    On June 16th, the Unicode Consortium announced that 250 new emoji would be added to the list of symbols available to people’s cellphones and computer devices. The list of the new symbols can be found on Emojipedia. And no, the list doesn’t include the much needed minority representation, but it does include your favorite (?) […]

  • The Decline and Fall of the American Mall
    June 24, 2014 | 9:07 pm

    For ages, the shopping mall was as essential to the architecture of suburbia as Levittowns and freeways. But in an era of online shopping, these epicenters of brick and mortar yesteryear are quietly being abandoned across the country. While the U.S. currently has around 1,500, the number may soon shrink, and rapidly, leading to abandoned […]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!



Trending on The Airspace