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Manospondylus gigas
"giant porous vertebra"


What more can be said about Tyrannosaurus rex, probably the single most famous stem-bird there is? Living in Late Cretaceous North America, T. rex was first described by Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1905, though it's remains were actually known since 1892, under the name Manospondylus gigas. M. gigas has historically been viewed as a dubious species, as it was named by the infamous bone warrior Edward Drinker Cope for only two vertebrae, which could have come from any gigantic late Maastrichtian age tyrannosaurines (as if there were more than one!). In 2000, Peter Larson claimed to have re-discovered Cope's dig site, and recovered what may be the rest of the holotype skeleton, which he nickneamed "E.D. Cope". As Larson pointed out, this would confirm that M. gigas is the correct name for the animal we all know as T. rex. Luckily, the ICZN has methods in place that can conserve the beloved name, and it's likely Tyrannosaurus rex will be ressurected in the future.

For a long time, T. rex was considered the largest land predator ever, although such theropods as Carcharodontosaurus, Giganotosaurus, and Spinosaurus grew larger (Spinosaurus was known to be larger since 1915, though it was not as well known due to its being collected by German scientists and the type specimen being destroyed during World War II). Much has been made of the scavenger vs. hunter debate, especially with studies showing that T. rex could not run well. It should be pointed out that younger tyrannosaurs were very good runners, and it's possible these dinosaurs hunted in packs or family groups, as evidenced by healed wounds that would have proved fatal if not for the aid of others. Also, specimens of Triceratops and Anatosaurus have been found with healed-over Tyrannosaurus bite marks. Add to this the lack of any other large predators in the environment of T. rex and the scavenger 'debate' begins to deflate.

The T. rex depicted above is more robust than in most popular illustrations. This follows the work of Bates et al. (2009). Their study can be read here. Like most other stem-birds, tyrannosaurs were likely covered in downy feathers, though their gigantic size and range that included near-tropical ecosystems may have limited their density on the body. Larger, more complex feathers may have been retained on strategic points of the body for display, as restored here on the arms.


Image Details:
Media: Digital, Adobe Photoshop CS3/CS5 with WACOM Graphire 3/Bamboo

Length: 12.8m (42ft)
Weight: 8.9 tons
Location: Lancian Formations, Western US
Time: Maastrichtian age, Late Cretaceous (65ma)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Stem-Aves
Order: Coeluria
Family: Deinodontidae
Subfamily: Tyrannosaurinae
Genus: Manospondylus
Species: M. gigas Cope 1892


Aublysodon amplus Marsh 1892
Aublysodon cristatus Marsh 1892
Tyrannosaurus rex Osborn 1905
Dynamosaurus imperiosus Osborn 1905
Gorgosaurus lancensis Gilmore 1946
Nanotyrannus lancensis Bakker et al.1988
Aublysodon molnari Paul 1988
Stygivenator molnari Olshevsky 1995
Dinotyrannus megagracilis Olshevsky 1995

Manospondylus scale


Peelback Matt Martyniuk 2010-2013