Trex -making -bed _2015_03_05

If you’re ever feeling down, just try to imagine a T. rex making the bed. With its adorably tiny arms, it wouldn’t stand a chance. In fact, although the Tyrannosaurus rex – meaning 'tyrant lizard' – is one of the most famous examples of the frightening predators that once roamed our planet, it did have some anatomical quirks that have puzzled scientists for decades. Rather amusingly, studies suggest that if it tripped and fell whilst running, it would crush its own skull with the force of the impact.

So the makers of 'Jurassic World', the upcoming film featuring everyone’s favourite rampaging reptiles, wanted to up the ferocity ante when creating the film's chief dino villain. Some of the profiles of the movie's reptilian cast were recently unveiled, but one particular dinosaur remains a bit of a mystery: the Indominus rex, a 'hybrid' dinosaur whose name means 'fierce' or 'untameable king'. Move over, T. rex – the I. rex is here, and it already sounds like a new line of Apple products.

The publicity for the dinosaur has been intentionally ambiguous, only teasing its appearance and behaviour in the trailers. Apart from some leaked merchandising artwork – which incidentally revealed the dinosaur in its entirety – much about the film’s reptilian star has been kept under wraps. So what will it be like? 

Indominus Rex dinosaur_2015_04_05
Indominus rex has yet to be revealed in all of its glory on the film's official website.

I have it on good authority (well, from the film’s official website) that this fictional dinosaur gets cooked up by geneticists using a mix of at least four other dinosaurs: the Carnotaurus ('meat-eating bull'), the Giganotosaurus ('giant southern lizard'), the Majungasaurus ('Mahajanga lizard'), and the Rugops (the less-chilling-sounding 'wrinkle face'). All four are meat-eating theropods ('beast feet'), and at least three are top predators.

The Carnotaurus was a large, swift predator with horns on its skull, and its extremely powerful leg muscles allowed it to quickly close in on any prey unlucky enough to become its target. They were certainly apex predators, fierce enough to fill the ecological niche occupied by the tyrannosaurs in other parts of the prehistoric world.

The Giganotosaurus was, as you may suspect, quite hefty: its skull was as long as the average British woman (1.6m or 5ft), and its total length was up to 13m (43ft). It could run up to 14m (46ft) per second (certainly faster than Usain Bolt at his average record-breaking speed of 10.42m or 34ft per second), and had teeth in its lower jaw specialised for inflicting slicing wounds.

The standout feature of the Majungasaurs was its abundance of sharp teeth in both its upper and lower jaws. Its skull shape suggests it bit into its prey once and held it there until it died, unlike other predatory theropods, which inflicted several mortal chomps on prey.

Finally, the Rugops. Featuring spines or spikes all along its back as armour, this smaller theropod was likely a scavenger.

A peek at the leaked artwork, however, reveals one additional feature that the above dinosaurs lacked: extremely long arms with razor-sharp, semi-collapsible claws. This suggests that the I. rex is capable of lacerating its prey or even picking it up in a scooping motion, ready to be chewed on. These arms and claws are more reminiscent of those found on certain Dromaeosaurs, bird-like theropod dinosaurs. In particular, the Deinonychus, a close cousin of the infamous velociraptor, had very long forelimbs with sickle-like claws, and biomechanical studies suggest that these were used for grasping prey.

So, assuming the scariest parts of all of the above are taken by the film’s geneticists and merged into a single I. rex, we can probably expect an extremely fast predator with very powerful leg muscles, horns or spikes along its head and spine and a lot of long, sharp teeth, more than most related dinosaurs would have had. It is likely to pick up its prey and hold it in its mouth, letting it bleed to death before consuming it.

Phew. Chris Pratt’s certainly got his work cut out for him ... good thing he’s got a trained pack of velociraptors to help him out (now if only they had feathers!).

UPDATE (April 21, 03:00am EST): We finally got our first look at I. rex in the global trailer! 

Top header image: disgustipado, Flickr