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TheRockies.Life Staff

T-Rex’s Little Cousin Loved Drumsticks: Pre-Historic Snacking Secrets Unearthed

"This fossil? It's a game-changer. It's like peeking into a prehistoric lunchbox!" - Dr. Zelenitsky's description of the importance of the Gorgosaurus fossil in understanding dinosaur diets.

Drumsticks and Wednesday Wing Night are favourites at pubs across Alberta.

And guess what? 

Locals’ love of these poultry snacks goes back a long time – over 70 million years, in fact. 

A recent discovery confirms that drumsticks have been the local snack of choice for a long, long time.

It turns out that meat-loving Tyrannosaurid dinosaurs in Dinosaur Valley also ate delectable drumettes. 

Back in 2009, a sharp-eyed tech from the Royal Tyrrell Museum stumbled upon fossils of a  Gorgosaurus libratus skeleton near Drumheller.

Gorgosaurus is a genus of Tyrannosaurid dinosaur that lived in western North America during the Late Cretaceous Period, between about 76.6 and 75.1 million years ago.

In case it’s been a while since you watched Jurassic Park, Tyrannosaurids were bipedal predators with massive skulls filled with large teeth. 

What was noteworthy about this discovery is that the dinosaur’s stomach contents were preserved with the skeleton so scientists were able to figure out what the dinosaur had eaten just before it died. 

Curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, François Therrien, right, and University of Calgary assistant professor Darla Zelenitsky stand next to a young specimen of a dinosaur called Gorgosaurus | Royal Tyrrell Museum

Dr. Darla Zelenitsky, from the University of Calgary’s Department of Earth, Energy and Environment, couldn’t contain her excitement. 

“This is a dino-sized breakthrough! We’ve got our hands on the first Tyrannosaur skeleton that’s keeping its last meal a secret no more!”

Picture this: Gorgosaurus, a smaller cousin of the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex, roamed the earth millions of years ago looking for prey on which to feast. 

Our star specimen, discovered in Dinosaur Provincial Park, was no slouch in catching prey. 

Stretching four meters in length and likely tipping the scales at 335 kg, this young predator was just a dino-teen, about five to seven years old, when it met its end and was preserved in sediment.

Dr. Zelenitsky beams, “This fossil? It’s a game-changer. It’s like peeking into a prehistoric lunchbox!”

Francois Therrien, a dino-detective and Curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, chimes in on why this is a colossal find. 

“Young Tyrannosaurs are like rare treasures. Their bones are delicate, so finding them is a rare treat. Plus, this little guy was hiding a surprise in its tummy!”

A technician spotted some tiny toe bones peeking out of the fossiled predator. “Those toes were definitely not the Tyrannosaur’s own,” Therrien explains. “It was like finding a hidden message inside a bottle!”

The team’s Sherlock-Holmes-style investigation revealed two small birdlike dinosaurs called Citipes resting in the belly of the teen predator. 

Citipes (meaning “fleet-footed” – although not fleet enough in this case) is an extinct genus of Caenagnathid dinosaurs with bird-like beaks that likely had feathers and were herbivores. 

“It was like discovering a prehistoric version of a gourmet meal that had never been seen before!” says Therrien.

Illuatration of Gorgosaurus snacking on a Citipes | JULIUS CSOTONYI |

The plot thickened over the years it took researchers to piece together this prehistoric puzzle. Their findings were recently showcased in Science Advances.

“It’s a story of diet evolution,” Therrien notes. “Young Tyrannosaurs were the sprinters of their day, snacking on smaller prey, unlike their beefy adult counterparts who munched on the big guys.”

And guess what? 

This young Gorgosaurus was picky with its food! “It had a thing for just the hind legs – the dino equivalent of drumsticks,” Therrien adds with a grin. 

Zelenitsky laughs, “Talk about a choosy teenager! This Gorgosaurus had a craving for Citipes drumsticks, it seems.”

This riveting research reveals that our young dino-friend enjoyed these birdlike dinosaurs in separate dining escapades, eating just the meaty hind legs.

Like many Albertans, Gorgosaurus loved their drumsticks. Who can blame them? 🦖🍖

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