Despite what the documentary found footage in Jurassic Park may have taught you, dinosaurs probably couldn’t run (see the dream-crushing studies here, here, and here). Since 1976 (starting with zoologist R. McNeill Alexander), we’ve estimated the speed of dinosaurs by looking at the length of their strides in fossilized dinosaur tracks. In modern animals, long strides correlate with faster movement. So far, dinosaur tracks haven’t shown signs of fast-moving dinos under the current modelling methods.
However, a new theory was presented recently by Heinrich Mallison, a palaeontologist at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. Mallison points out, “Most dinosaurs had hind limbs that differed significantly from living mammals and birds.”
So Mallison conducted a detailed assessment of the size, shape and muscle mass of dinosaur limbs, then used engineering software to build striding models, taking gravity, mass distribution and inertia into account. For most dinosaur species, he found that stride length was extremely limited by the conformation of the skeleton. But he also saw that in comparison with mammals, dinosaurs had relatively large muscles in their buttocks, which would have changed their gait, so that the Alexander formula would not apply. [Nature]
Mallison’s striding models suggested that, although dinosaurs almost certainly didn’t run, they could have been awesome power walkers using their big, muscular butts to take short (but rapid) strides. Mallison adds, “Race-walkers get big butts and little muscle associated with their ankles, and this is exactly what we see in dinosaurs.” You hear that, dinosaurs? Pretty sure the doctor just called you fat. YA BURNT.
I’m still a bit skeptical about the whole thing. If having a big butt makes you faster, why am I not the speediest bastard alive? Answer me that, “scientists”.