Wait, T-Rex Didn’t Roar?!


It is amazing how much movies and media can subconsciously influence the way we see things, to the point that we can accept certain things as fact without considering whether or not there is any solid evidence to accept those facts. When it comes to the animal kingdom, this is also true in many ways. Whether it be the grossly exaggerated size and ferocity of the velociraptor in Jurassic Park, the red-tailed hawk’s screech dubbed in over the bald eagle to make America’s symbol sound more impressive, or the way that Jaws sparked international terror of sharks completely disproportionate to how many people they actually kill every year, media is often responsible for the perpetuation of a variety of misconceptions and myths about animals. Knowing this, however, does not mean that one is always aware of which mistaken “facts” they are believing without evidence.

So when I came across this article on IFLScience about what dinosaurs actually sounded like, I confronted one of my own mistaken preconceptions. The predators roar, everyone knows that, wait, why do I think that? Movies. Oh crap, you’re going to ruin another aspect of my image of dinosaurs aren’t you science? So I opened the article and, sure enough,

Now a new study looking into dinosaur vocalizations has revealed that some dinosaurs might have been mumblers, and cooed with their mouth shut rather than bellowed. Think giant dove, only with gnashing teeth.

What they found was that the ability to make squeaks and squawks without opening the bill has actually evolved separately more than 16 times in the group that contains birds and crocodiles known as Archosaurs. Crucially, this group also contains their larger, more ferocious relatives, the dinosaurs. This means that it is quite likely that at least some of the creatures that are often depicted as roaring and shouting were really making far more understated coos and chirrups.

Between the velociraptor actually looking more like a skinny chicken, and the prospect of a mumbling chirruping T-Rex, I’m thinking that Jurrasic Park might not be all that scary at all, should anyone ever manage to build one.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    You can always outrun the thing on horseback. Just remember to bring along the coconut shells so you can make the correct noises.

  2. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin says T. rex didn’t coo-coo so much as squeak! like a mouse, albeit at an impressive volume and duration: SSSQQQQQQQUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEAAKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!
    They also waved their little arms about (surprisingly co-ordinated), and hopped, typically on foot for a bit and then the other, with a few tail thumps, and the occasional tail-stand. It looked rather like a dance, and is sometimes known as the T. rex Tap Whack (or just T rex T whack), as it usually ended by leaping on and devouring an unsuspecting coconut.

  3. Anton Mates says

    Predators don’t roar when they’re hunting anyway. They don’t usually don’t growl or hiss or show their teeth or any of that stuff either. What’s the point in scaring off prey before you can catch it?

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      When they’re hunting no, they don’t. But some do in a show of aggression and territory defense towards other predators, and in a defense of their young. Lions, for instance, and gorillas.

  4. StevoR says

    Between the velociraptor actually looking more like a skinny chicken, and the prospect of a mumbling chirruping T-Rex, I’m thinking that Jurrasic Park might not be all that scary at all, should anyone ever manage to build one.

    Velociraptor may be chicken-sized but Utahraptor OTOH was impressive.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utahraptor

    It even a cooing T-Rex would be pretty scary based on size and teeth alone even if it was likely more of vulture analogue than a jaguar one

    • StevoR says

      PS. The points this palaeontologist made in this scene from the movie in question :

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2UQv2JUZoU

      still holds pretty valid whatever noise they would have made. Impressive top (or even medium level) predators – and also very impressive and formidable prey critters the dinos sure were. If we only had a time machine to go back and see what they were really like; well, I’d want to bring along a pretty tough land version of a shark cage for the trip!

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