What was the life expectancy of a dinosaur? © Getty Images

What was the life expectancy of a dinosaur?

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Tree trunks and crocodiles could be the solution to answer this dino-sized problem.

Asked by: Charlie Mack, Uckfield


Scientists can measure the age of some dinosaur species from the growth rings inside fossil bones, much as you can tell the age of a tree by the rings inside its trunk. The oldest known Tyrannosaurus rex specimen, this method tells us, was at least 30 when she died.

But this technique doesn’t work well on many species, because their bones grew continuously and don’t have neat growth rings. Early estimates of 300-year lifespans for the largest sauropods were based on comparisons with crocodiles and turtles, which have much slower metabolisms. The consensus is now that Apatosaurus and Diplodocus dinosaurs probably only lived for 70 or 80 years, which is about the same as an elephant today.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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