Dinosaurs wagged their tails while running

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Researchers have some bad news for the producers of the next action thriller featuring razor-toothed dinosaurs chasing their next meal.

It turns out the hulking creatures actually ran with a cute little wag of the tail.

Dr Peter Bishop is an honorary researcher with the Queensland Museum Network and he’s just spent more than three years working out how dinosaur tails really worked.

Previous studies always considered the tails of non-avian dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex, to be static rear extensions of the pelvis that counterbalanced their long necks and large, heavy heads.

But it turns out they were not static at all and played a vital role in keeping the mighty beasts upright when they were thundering along in pursuit of a tasty morsel.

Proof that dinosaurs wagged their tails like dogs will make the next Jurassic Park-style chase involving a T-rex significantly less terrifying.

“Essentially, our findings show that dinosaurs like tyrannosaurus and velociraptor wagged their tails from side to side when they ran, which helped them stay balanced,” Dr Bishop says.

“When I first saw the simulation results I was very surprised.

“But after running a range of further simulations making the tails heavier, lighter and even no tail at all, we were able to conclusively demonstrate that the tail wagging was a means of controlling angular momentum throughout their gait.”

Dr Bishop and an international team including palaeontologists, biomechanists and engineers used sophisticated computer simulations to demonstrates the crucial, and previously unrecognised role of dinosaur tails.

The scientific paper produced by the team has been published in the journal Science Advances.

Dr Bishop is a research fellow at Harvard University in the United States.

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