You remember the photo, right? Usain Bolt in the middle of the race, with his torso half turned, looking at the camera with a confident smile, who is already known with the gold medal around his neck and the undisputed king of the 2016 Olympics. The image was taken just a few strides from the finish line and shows how the Jamaican takes several heads out of the rest of his opponents, all elite athletes, so devilishly fast that not even the lenses of professional Getty Images photographers are capable of capturing their gestures with a completely clear image.
Now imagine that Bolt is not Bolt, that instead of being a 30-year-old athlete, almost two meters tall and 90 kilos, he is a fearsome theropod dinosaur –perhaps from the family of spinosaurids or carcharodontosaurs– with teeth as sharp as daggers, about two meters high and between 200 and 300 kilos in weight. To make matters worse, it thinks that it is a carnivore endowed with a fine innate ability to hunt. He is not the Jamaican Olympian, but he runs practically like him. Scary, right?
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A “record holder” dinosaur
The disturbing image emerges from a study just published by the journal Scientific Reports based on data collected in Spain, to be more precise in La Rioja. After analyzing several fossilized footprints from the Cretaceous Period associated with two dinosaurs and measuring their strides, the authors have concluded that the creatures that left them were capable of moving at surprising speed. One of the specimens was running at between 23.4 and 37.1 kilometers per hour (km / h). The other, considerably faster, it reached between 31.7 and 44.6 km / h, a mark worthy of Bolt. In 2009 the Jamaican actually brushed 45 km / h in a 100-meter world final.
“Their ability to run very fast and their maneuvering skills surely allowed them to chase their prey very efficiently. Of course, I wouldn’t want it to catch me on the bank of a river ”, explains the study’s lead author, Pablo Navarro-Lorbes, a doctoral student at the University of La Rioja. in statements collected by Reuters. To analyze the traces of footprints, about 120 million years ago, the experts took into account the relationship between the height of the animal’s hip, estimated from the impressions, and the length of the stride.
A vital weapon to hunt … and not be hunted
The traces located in La Rioja probably – at least that is what scientists believe – belong to two individuals of the same species of theropod. Which? Spinosaurids, which often fed on fish, or Carcharodontosaurus, famous for their sharp teeth. Their heights were around four or five meters long and two high and the weight was between 200 and 300 kilos. In their case, speed was a matter of life and death: they needed it to hunt and feed, but also not to end up, in turn, converted into prey for larger theropods.
According to the EuropaPress agencyMost of the preserved footprints belong to dinosaurs that left them while walking, with a slower pace and pace. From them, however, experts have estimated running speeds. The fastest to date is associated with a Jurassic theropod located in Utah: 55 km / h. Another, a turkey-sized Compsognathus, was calculated with biomedical models. Its mark would stand at 65 km / h.
Cover image | Matthew Deery – Ultimate Dinosaurs (Wikipedia)