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Series / Valley of the T-Rex

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Valley of the T-Rex is a 2001 Discovery Channel TV Documentary in which renowned paleontologist (and notorious T. rex hater) Jack Horner discusses his theories about the eponymous animal's supposedly carnivorous nature. He presents fact after fact that allegedly proves that the "King of Dinosaurs" was nothing more than a mere sluggish scavenger, and an ugly one at that, much to the contrary of popular belief.
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The program has received major criticism due to Horner's negligence to take note of any evidence that might confirm the opposite of his theories and the arguments he uses for why Tyrannosaurus was a pure scavenger don't hold up to scrutiny.


The work provides examples of:

  • Anachronistic Animal: Saurornitholestes, the dromaeosaurs shown in the program, went extinct a few million years before T. rex and Triceratops.
  • Animals Not to Scale: The dromaeosaurs in the program are identified as Saurornitholestes, which was around the size of Velociraptor (i.e. the size of a turkey). However, these dromaeosaurs are about as tall as a man, much like the raptors from Jurassic Park (though funnily enough, this predicted the discovery of Dakotaraptor, a man-sized dromaeosaur that lived alongside T. rex).
  • Artistic License – Biology: Most, if not all, of Horner's claims make no sense.
    • Could an animal that size support itself by being lucky enough to constantly bump into still-edible dinosaur carcasses whenever it was hungry? If it is a slow animal, is it possible that maybe it didn't need to be fast because it's prey would have been just as slow if not slower? Couldn't it have also just used the element of surprise to catch it's food? If it couldn't get up from the ground because of it's small arms then how is it supposed to sleep?
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    • Horner seems to be under the impression that certain scavengers such as vultures look “ugly” because that helps them repeal their opposition when stealing their kill. As if wild animals have the same beauty standards as humans or care much about them, to begin with. The iconic bald heads of vultures and condors have instead been theorized to be an adaption for digging into carcasses (reducing the chances of blood sticking to their plumage), or alternatively for thermoregulation (since most species live in hot and arid environments), while their scruffy feather collars help them keep their tucked head and neck warm at night. Those that have wrinkles, wattles, and/or brightly colored skin evolved them as display features, as a sign of fitness and virility (some taking it to the extreme), and plenty of other birds (many of them not being carnivores) have similar features.
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    • Horner compares T. rex to spotted hyenas for his argument, because everyone knows spotted hyenas are disgusting, cowardly scavengers. Just ignore the literal mountain of nature footage showing spotted hyenas as apex predators. In fact, as predators who rely on the sheer crushing power of their jaws to kill their prey, hyenas actually do make a good comparison to tyrannosaurs.
    • Small arms make hunting difficult? Abelisaurs, gorgonopsids, wolves, eagles, monitor lizards, crocodiles, sharks, orcas, literally almost every other large carnivore BUT cats would like a word with you, Mr. Horner. It gets even more egregious considering he cites wolves as a modern counterpart to dromaeosaurids, despite wolves not using their forelimbs at all for hunting.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: The program was well constructed and explained in detail why it presented the things the way it has, but paleontologists that happened not to hate Tyrannosaurus *Cough*Robert Bakker*Cough* may find it to be somewhat infuriating.
    • Horner claims that Tyrannosaurus didn't have a very good sense of sight when T. rex is known for having one of the best eyesight of any Dinosaur.
    • Both the T. rex and dromaeosaurs have pronated hands.
    • Horner suggested dromaeosaurs would be the true top predators instead of T. rex, and the documentary proceeds to show them bringing down prey many times their size in numbers. This is, of course, analogous to jackals bringing down an elephant. Admittedly, this was before the discovery of Dakotaraptor, a larger dromaeosaur from the same time as T. rex, but still one way too small (grizzly bear-sized) to bring down animals larger than elephants even in a group. The entire idea of pack hunting dromaeosaurs has been seen as very unlikely in recent years as well.
    • The documentary claims that T. rex grew to 15 feet tall which is 2 feet taller than the largest specimens that have been discovered. It also claims that the Wynkel specimen was the most complete T. rex skeleton ever found which is wrong because that title belongs to Sue.
  • False Dichotomy: Pure hunter or pure scavenger? Why can't T. rex be a bit of both?
  • Feathered Fiend: Saurornitholestes and a bunch of other small dromaeosaurs which the rex chases away from their kill.
  • Hypocrite: Perhaps the biggest sin the documentary makes. To elaborate:
  • Insult Backfire: The very bulky, redheaded T.rex model we see at the end is meant to invoke Scavengers Are Scum but many viewers found the design to look very badass and intimidating, more so than the standard T. rex design used throughout the bulk of the documentary.
  • Irony: Two fold.
    • Horner compares T. rex to a spotted hyena only to further support his claim that it was a scavenger. Of course, given that the spotted hyena is actually an accomplished predator in its own right, which kills its prey with its bone-crushing bite, it actually does make a good comparison to T. rex.
    • Horner hypes up the Raptor Attack Saurornitholestes and degrades T. rex constantly, with the former as agile, active, intelligent killing-machines and the latter as slow, stupid, and cowardly. And yet in the animation at the end, the mere arrival of a T. rex sends an entire pack of Saurornitholestes running away terrified, making them look cowardly and the T. rex as The Dreaded.
  • Raptor Attack: The Saurornitholestes are not only oversized, inaccurately feathered, and living in the wrong time period, they were also shown bringing down an Edmontosaurus many times their size and have also managed to kill a Triceratops, against all logic, all while Jack Horner basically fanboys over them as being legit killers unlike T. rex.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: The scavenging T. rex as imagined by Horner is depicted in an extremely negative light, in contrast to the nobler image of the classic predatory version.
  • Stock Footage: From Discovery's former dinosaur show, When Dinosaurs Roamed America.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The roars uttered by the T. rex when it scares away a few smaller theropods from their kill are very obviously modified grizzly bear roars.
  • The Makeover: Inverted. Horner takes a standard CGI Tyrannosaurus and turns it disgustingly ugly — or, in his mind, more realistic.
  • The Worf Effect: A meta-example. What has previously been seen as the ultimate predator is actually a pathetic carrion stealer. At least, that was what the documentary set out to accomplish.


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