Can A Spinosaurus Really Beat A T-rex? Jurassic Park 3's Dinosaur Explained

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Jurassic Park 3 features an epic battle where a Spinosaurus appears to effortlessly defeat a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but how accurate is the outcome?

In one of the most hated moments of the Jurassic Park franchise, the Spinosaurus managed to beat a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the last installment of the original trilogy, Jurassic Park III. Since the Spinosaurus is the main source of terror on Isla Sorna in the sequel, it made sense that the ancient lizard would come out of this battle on top. However, it's questionable how accurate the movie's climactic outcome is, no matter how thrilling the film-makers thought it might have been onscreen.

The battle between the Spinosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex is the stuff of legend, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Watching two giant dinosaurs unleash terrifying roars as they thrash, stomp, and charge through a misty tropical jungle might be one of the most awe-inspiring special effects achievements in the franchise's history. And though its T. rex opponent puts up a pretty good fight, the Spinosaurus emerges victorious after it snaps its rival's neck between its jaws. It's a clash of epic proportions featuring two of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park that were actually real before the franchise turned to gene splicing and mutant dino creations.

Unfortunately, it's also a scenario that would never happen. Not only did the two predators live and go extinct during separate eras of the Cretaceous period, but they were separated by completely different geographic locations; the Spinosaurus was native to what's now northern Africa, while the T. rex roamed the lands that eventually became western North America. But thanks to Jurassic Park 3's magic, the two titans met. The question, though, is whether the sequel called the battle right and whether a Spinosaurus could genuinely beat a T. rex, given the criticism in the fanbase suggesting that too would be impossible. Here's a rundown of each species' strengths and weaknesses and how they might hold up in a battle against one another.

The Real-Life Spinosaurus Dinosaur Explained

Two Spinosaurus aegyptiacus hunt Onchopristis, a prehistoric sawfish, in the waters of the Kem Kem river system in what is now Morocco. Image credit: Jason Treat / National Geographic Staff / Mesa Schumacher / Davide Bonadonna / Nizar Ibrahim, University of Detroit Mercy.

In many ways, the real-life Spinosaurus was like a supersized, aquatic version of another featured dinosaur from Jurassic Park's original trilogy: the Velociraptor. The Spinosaurus weighed seven to nine tons and measured up to 57 feet long. It was a semi-aquatic species that maneuvered well in wet, swamp-like environments, and thanks to its massive fin-like tail, the Spinosaurus was also incredibly fast in large bodies of water. These dinosaurs also had long arms fitted with sharp claws that six to eight inches long that could make cuts up to two inches deep. Those arms, however, hung down in order to aid their hunting of fish and claws could not be rotated to grab as is depicted in Jurassic Park 3.

Additionally, the Spinosaurus's jaw was basically useless in a fight. Its conical teeth were well-equipped to grip slippery fish but were incapable of causing any major damage to other flesh. On top of that, the creature's skull was ill-suited to lateral bending and higher levels of stress, making battle with a traditional bipedal dinosaur like a T. rex. And not only that, but the Spinosaurus' short back legs meant it was suited well to water, but wasn't made for long excursions on land or particular agility. The Spinosaurus also had a major design flaw: its weakest point (its spine) was completely exposed. One bad move and it could be paralyzed by its attacker.

How Jurassic Park 3'S Spinosaurus Compares To The Real Version

In the Jurassic Park franchise, the Spinosaurus is markedly more intimidating and lethal than the real-life version. Though it would have been impressive to see Jurassic World bring back the Spinosaurus, it probably would not have been an accurate portrayal by any means, given the inaccuracies established in the original trilogy. Some shots show that this gigantic dinosaur's fangs were just as long, if not longer, than those of a T. rex, which was simply not the case. The T. rex had some of the largest teeth recorded of the meat-eating dinosaurs, reaching a huge 12 inches in length. Meanwhile, the Spinosaurus's teeth were a little more than three inches long at most.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the movie's Spinosaurus and the real-life Spinosaurus is the force of its bite. In Jurassic Park 3, the Spinosaurus easily snaps the T. rex's neck by clenching it tightly between its jaws. While this might be possible with a smaller organism, it's unlikely that a Spinosaurus would be able to do that with a dinosaur as robust and muscular as a T. rex. Though the Spinosaurus had an impressive bite force of 2 tons, its teeth would have been too small and dull to grab hold of a T. rex's neck long enough to bite down on it, let alone break it in half. On top of that, the creature's agility in the film is hugely over-played: it is too fast, too flexible, and too agile on land by far.

Can A Spinosaurus Beat A T. Rex?

One thing is for sure about the Spinosaurus: its impressive biological stats make it an undervalued dinosaur in the Jurassic Park franchise but not in the way some may think. The predator is downplayed as a hulking apex predator, which is not true and the portrayal removes all nuance. And as for the question of whether it would beat a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a fight? Concrete answers are hard to come by, because of the differences of opinion in even expert communities, but such a comprehensive victory is basically impossible. Yes, the Spinosaurus was markedly larger than the T. Rex, but it also lacked the muscle and bite power to do any serious damage. Meanwhile, the T. rex had a powerful bite, but it also lacked speed and agility. Ultimately, it's likely that its massive jaws would make up for the difference given that the inaccuracies on show massively exaggerated the Spinosaurus' abilities as this sort of combatant.

Ultimately, a lot of the outcome would be determined by where and how the battle took place. Each dinosaur has significant advantages when fighting on its own home turf. The T. rex is an iconic favorite of the six dinosaur species from the first Jurassic Park, but it's far from unbeatable. If it was unfortunate enough to cross paths with a Spinosaurus by a river or a lake, a Tyrannosaurus Rex might just end up as the sail-back dinosaur's largest catch of the day. It would be an easy target in any swampy environment, let alone a large body of water. Meanwhile, a Spinosaurus wouldn't stand a chance if the two dinosaurs were to duke it out in the humid and tropical forests where the T. rex reigned as an apex predator, which is precisely why Jurassic Park 3 was so wrong in its outcome.

Any pathway to victory would require a lot of power and coordination from the Spinosaurus, which was not a species known for its brains. After all, even in-universe, Dr. Alan Grant - one of the legacy characters returning for Jurassic World 3 - was able to scare one off by igniting boat fuel and setting the path in front of it on fire. If a Spinosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex were to go head-to-head under the same circumstances shown in Jurassic Park III, it's certain that the T. rex would come out on top. Its slight disadvantage of size would easily be made up for by its strength and lethal bite power. What happens in the film is definitely a product of movie magic, but at least the battle's creativity continues to inspire amazement and wonder.