So Just How Fast Were Dinosaurs?

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So Just How Fast Were Dinosaurs?

Posted: 22nd August 2007

When I went into the Tesco supermarket today, I was pretty amazed to see a picture of Compsognathus on the front cover of the Times. Apparently two researchers at the University Manchester developed a computer model which they used to calculate the running speed of various dinosaurs: Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, Dilophosaurus, and as you'd probably guessed, Compsognathus.

According to the results, Tyrannosaurus Rex was the slowest of the five, clocking in at just 17.9 miles per hour (28.8 kilometers per hour) - which is actually still faster than most humans (the exception being Olympic sprinters), and in one of my favorite comparisons, fast enough to chase down a professional footballer (David Beckham is mentioned by name, although I can't think what he's done to deserve being added to T.Rex's lunch menu1). The fastest of the five dinosaurs, according to the study was Compsognathus, clocking in at a positively speedy 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour), making it probably the fastest biped ever.... oh and while I remember: the researchers think their model might slightly underestimate these speed figures.

Here's some of the other press coverage on this research:

There's a video of the computer model (or at least the results of it), which was posted on YouTube, apparently by New Scientist at

The traditional view of dinosaurs is that they were slow lumbering giants, cold-blooded, and with the four legged varieties often sprawling lizard like (some early reconstructions of Apatosaurus even had the animal's limbs sprawled so much, that poor old Apatosaurus would have need to walk only along giant trenches to accommodate its massive rib cage). Even today, there are some scientists who argue that Tyrannosaurus Rex was not an active fearsome predator, but a slow-moving scavenger hobbling along like an old lady, in constant fear of breaking one of its fragile bones.

If the new research is correct, and of course that's a big if, it's another nail in the coffin of that view. To me it seems the weight of evidence2 tends to support the idea of dinosaurs being highly active bird-like warm-blooded creatures.

1 I'm writing this after the England v. Germany friendly, and although England were defeated, I'm personally not placing any blame on Becks for it.

2 If you think that dinosaurs were cold-blooded and lizard-like, I recommend that you read "The Dinosaur Heresies" by Robert T. Bakker (although you don't have to necessarily accept his theories about extinction).

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