There is a North Texas connection to an investigation that could change the perception of history’s most famous dinosaur.
A documentary crew from England was in Glen Rose late last month to study dinosaur tracks along the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park, according to the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, for a project that will attempt to paint the most accurate picture of Tyrannosaurus rex to date.
Among the revelations expected to be made in the documentary, the paper noted, is the emerging belief that T. rex would not have been capable of producing the roar that is often depicted in films like “Jurassic Park.”
Instead, according to Chris Packham, who will host the documentary when it airs in Britain later this year, some scientists believe T. rex instead may have made a sound that would be inaudible to humans today, a “very low-frequency noise without opening its mouth,” the Stephenville Empire-Tribune reported.
In a 2016 interview with National Public Radio (NPR), University of Texas at Austin Paleontologist Julia Clarke further confirmed the emerging thinking that T. rex and other dinosaurs would not have made that famous roar.
“Most dinosaur sounds are based on models that are more like lions and tigers and bears. And we know that the two groups of animals alive today that are most closely related to extinct dinosaurs are birds and crocodilians,” Clarke told NPR host Linda Wertheimer. “Most [birds] vocalize, sing with an open mouth. But some birds produce sound with a closed mouth. They actually inflate different structures that allow them to resonate, often at lower frequencies than many other birds.”
Clarke’s research is part of a UT study published last August in the journal ‘Evolution,' which posits the theory dinosaurs may have cooed like doves.
“Looking at the distribution of closed-mouth vocalization in birds that are alive today could tell us how dinosaurs vocalized,” said Chad Eliason, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences and the study’s co-author. “Our results show that closed-mouth vocalization has evolved at least 16 times in archosaurs, a group that includes birds, dinosaurs and crocodiles. Interestingly, only animals with a relatively large body size (about the size of a dove or larger) use closed-mouth vocalization behavior.”
In Glen Rose, some recent visitors to the popular Dinosaur World, which allows guests to meander along a half-mile wooded trail and mingle with dozens of larger-than-life dinosaur statues, expressed disappointment that the T. rex might have sounded far more tame than previously depicted.
“It makes him not as scary to me now,” said Joshua Slater, a middle-schooler from Graford, Texas.
Friend Jordan Vaught agreed.
“If he doesn’t make that noise then it’s not scary anymore,” Vaught said with a laugh.
Bethany Braeuer works at Dinosaur World, and noted the T. rex is easily one of the two most popular dinosaurs for guests at the park.
“It’s the whole predator aspect that tends to attract people,” Braeuer said. “I think it would change the way I think of T. rex. I think of T. rex as being a big scary dinosaur, but I guess if it was not necessarily a roar it might change the way I see him.”
Braeuer did note, however, that last she checked the Tyrannosaurus rex still had that massive jaw and a mouthful of razor sharp teeth to contend with. And she predicted that visitors of all ages would still be captivated by the creature 65 million years after it last roamed the Earth.