Age and growth dynamics of Tyrannosaurus rex

John R. Horner, Kevin Padian


Tyrannosaurus rex is the most commonly found North American latest Cretaceous theropod, but until the 1980s only five specimens had been discovered, and no more than six have received a full description. Consequently there has been little information on how old Tyrannosaurus specimens were at maturity or death. Histological analysis of seven individuals provided, for the first time, an opportunity to assess the age represented by the bone cortex, to estimate the average individual age of these skeletons, to determine whether they represented fully grown individuals, and to predict their individual longevity. Though a range of ages (15–25 years) was found for the specimens studied, the seven individuals demonstrate that T. rex reached effectively full size in less than 20 years. The growth rate of T. rex was comparable to that of the African elephant, which has a similar mass and time to maturity. Some of the known specimens of T. rex did not quite reach full size; others do not seem to have survived long after achieving it.


  • Both authors contributed in equal part to this work.

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