God’s Word clearly records that humans and other animals originally had an herbivorous diet (Genesis 1:29-30). However, this presents a stark contrast to the design features for obtaining food that are currently present in some animals. Consider everyone’s favorite Mesozoic “monster”: Tyrannosaurus rex, the “tyrant lizard king.” This theropod (meat-eating dinosaur) was more than 40 feet long from nose to tail, and tipped the scales at about ten tons or so. But Tyrannosaurus also had the most powerful jaws of any terrestrial carnivore, and a mouthful of banana-sized, pulverizing teeth.
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How could this animal have ever been a peaceful herbivore? Do not let the thought that T. rex represents God’s original design distract you. In reality, recent research by young-earth paleontologists suggests that the answer to this mystery lies in how this animal changed over time.
Yes, Tyrannosaurus Rex WAS a Meat-Eater
First, we must establish that Tyrannosaurus rex, as it appears in the fossil record, was a carnivore. This might seem obvious to some, but some non-scientific creationist literature (especially in the late 20th century) propagated the idea that the sharp teeth of T. rex were poorly-rooted in the jaw, and thus useless for hunting or eating meat.1 These authors instead claimed that this animal would have been better suited for crunching the tough, outer husks of fruit and other plants. After all, fruit bats and giant pandas have sharp teeth too, and yet they only eat plants. Why can we not apply the same logic to T. rex?
Designed to Kill
Tyrannosaurus’ teeth had tiny serrations lining their front and back. They were also curved, ensuring that whatever they gripped onto could not escape easily. While fruit bats and giant pandas do have sharp teeth, they are not like this at all. The only animals with serrated, curved teeth comparable to those of T. rex are creatures like the carnivorous monitor lizards. The Komodo dragon is a prime example.2 Additionally, specimens of Tyrannosaurus and similar dinosaurs have come to light with the bones of other dinosaurs in their stomachs.3 In some cases, scientists have discovered tooth marks and even broken teeth from Tyrannosaurus lodged in the bones of their prey.
Also, it is false to claim T. rex had poorly-rooted teeth. Their roots were much longer than the portion of the tooth that protruded from the gum. In any case, the design of theropod teeth was such that they fell out after they had worn out. Like sharks and crocodiles, they would frequently regrow lost teeth throughout their lives.
T. rex may have been the top predator in its habitat, but its ancestors did not start out this way. Genesis 1:25 records that God created the land creatures according to their kinds, not species (our modern concept of a species did not yet exist). After their initial creation, each created kind diversified into many species. Statistical analyses done on Tyrannosaurus and other dinosaur species seem to indicate that it was one of several species that share common ancestry with the original tyrannosaur God created.4
This data is helpful in constructing a family tree of all known species belonging to this created kind. The “branches” of this family tree show which species are further down the lineage, like Tyrannosaurus. Those closer to the trunk, such as Eotyrannus, will represent species more similar to the original ancestor. Eotyrannus was different from T. rex. It had a less powerful skull and long, grasping arms with three-fingered hands.
Crowning the King
But we should be careful not to confuse Eotyrannus itself with the original tyrannosaur God made. Even this animal had the curved, serrated teeth of a carnivore. However, young-earth paleontologists have proposed that God originally created an Eotyrannus-like tyrannosaur with teeth more suited for an herbivorous diet.4 But sometime after Adam and Eve fell into sin, these creatures became carnivorous. God may have front-loaded the genes for predatory traits into the original Eotyrannus-like creature He created. Once these genes were “switched on” at some point, they would have become dominant as generations of tyrannosaurs passed. With time, the Eotyrannus-like dinosaur’s descendants diversified. Some mushroomed in size sacrificing longer arms for a more powerful skull and bone-pulverizing teeth. They fully assumed their role as king of the dinosaurs.