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Puberty Blues for the T.Rex

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the growing-pains dept.

Science 59

An anonymous reader writes "A new press release about Tyrannosaurus Rex shows that they lived fast and died young. Growing at 2kg per day for up to 10 years. Links to summaries on BBC and CNN."

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59 comments

At the age of Ten... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9948396)

...they had to enter carousel.

Re:At the age of Ten... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9954012)

No, at the age of THIRTY, they had to
enter carousel. Good ref, by the way....

Doesn't that seem a bit high? (2, Insightful)

cjpez (148000) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948464)

I mean, they are the "experts," and I'm just some guy in front of a computer, but what kind of caloric intake would it require to grow 4.6lbs in a day? Was the T.rex a carnivore? If so, you'd think it'd be pretty difficult to kill enough STUFF to be able to do that.

I've been looking around trying to find data on growth rates of other larger animals (elephants were mentioned on the CNN article, and I figured whales may be useful), but all I seem to be bringing up is growth rates in terms of population, not physical weight.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

Glog (303500) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948555)

According to the most recent studies - and those are just some scientist's claims, mind you - the T Rex was a scavenger - in other words, it rarely if ever killed its own prey. Which in my opinion implies that it was an omnivore rather than a carnivore.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

PhilippeT (697931) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948612)

Being a scavenger doesn't make one an omnivore... the T-rex didn't have the teeth for eating anything else then meet. The fact that it was a scavenger would have certainly been helped by its massive size; most scavengers are normally small due to poor food intake and the need to be small as to not be noticed by the other predators, T-Rex could have simply scare away most other predators

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (2, Interesting)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948734)

T-Rex could have simply scare away most other predators

I've read that lions will steal kills this way, as well. Some prides of lions almost never made their own kills, but instead waited for hyenas or wild dogs to make a kill, and then moved in. They're a bit bigger than most other animals want to mess with, so they have a good success rate doing this.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 9 years ago | (#9953778)

I've actually seen footage of a lion stealing a Thompson's Gazelle from a Cheetah. It basically worked out thusly: The cheetah saw the Lion coming, and started gorging itself as fast as it could. It didn't leave until the Lion lazily batted the cheetah away (the cheetah then grudgingly walked away).

The lion didn't waste any energy chasing the cheetah, and the cheetah cut its losses and moped away.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 9 years ago | (#9959620)

Some prides of lions almost never made their own kills

No.

Some individual lions, yes, but prides hunt.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

MammaMia (764083) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948622)

That's kind of a leap in your logic - omnivores eat both plants and animals. Do scavengers eat plants? Not necessarily.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948664)

Scavenging mammals often will, but then again, so will most carnivorous mammals (watch a dog or cat eat grass sometime) if they're not getting enough meat. I think that's more a mammal thing, though. T.rex doesn't have the kind of teeth a canine or feline does, so I doubt it ate plants even to supplement its diet.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (2, Insightful)

zantispam (78764) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948726)

Which in my opinion implies that it was an omnivore rather than a carnivore.

How, exactly, is a T Rex going to eat plants with six-inch long serrated pointy teeth, hrm?

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

cjpez (148000) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948834)

Ah, yes. As I just mentioned to someone else who replied similarly, I hadn't considered the scavenger possibility. That makes a lot more sense. Not sure about the omnivore/carnivore thing, but if it'll eat other things that have died in the area, I suppose it probably could have ingested the requisite nutrients...

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (3, Interesting)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948593)

There have been a lot of people who believe that T.rex was a scavenger for a variety of reasons. They're clearly able to kill by sheer size, but I find it reasonable that that wasn't their main survival strategy.

A sparsely populated scavenger, particularly one that could still kill smaller prey (of course, by "small" in this case I'm still talking about things the size of a Buick) would have a much easier job eating that much.

Also, remember that the animal's their eating (wether scavenged or hunted) were as large, and in some cases much larger, than they were. A dead sauropod could likely feed several T.rex for some time after the kill, in the same way that a wolf pack can spend several days eating a large moose.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

PhilippeT (697931) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948652)

I highly doubt that a t-rex let alone a pack (doubtful that they would hunt or even live in packs) would be stupid enough to try and kill a sauropod, unless it was a small infant.

The parents tail would send them flying even at the size of a T-rex

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948794)

Which is part of my point that I do believe they were at least partially scavengers. Parts of sauropod bones have been found inside of T.rex skeletons. It would be like a pride of lions going after a healthy bull elephant if they killed it themselves. The cost in injury is far more than the food is worth.

Also, most of the recent research I've seen suggests that T.rex were pack hunters, or at least family-group hunters (adult mother, adolescents, and immature offspring). Their size doesn't really suggest they'd be sole hunters in itself, since by scale, they're not that much larger than much of their prey, and probably somewhat slower.

Lions do the same (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948781)

As another poster mentioned T-rex was big. Lions are excellent scavengers because they are big. Most predators scavenge if they get the change but it helps if your big enough to scare others away. Being able to claim any food source by your size, wether that food is still runningm, you just killed it, killed by someone else or dropped dead of old age, is a bit of an advantage.

It also works for herbivores. Elephants can be big and smart because they are big and smart. Big enough to stand up to a lion and smart enough to do so. Elephant calves are preyed upon if predators get the chance but elephants got the brains to protect their young. Because their young are so well protected by adults (the whole group helps) they don't need to grow up in a hurry and can therefore use growing energy into growing brains.

Cheetahs on the other hand are excellent hunters but crap at keeping their food or even protecting their young. They are also pretty stupid.

Of course humans would conclude that lions are therefore better evolved then cheetahs. it all depends however on what happens next. Evolution doesn't have an end and it is certainly possible for nature to change enough to make lions the underdog (remove big groups of prey they need and replace with singular small fast prey).

What does that say about T. Rex's mortality rate? (1)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#9950086)

There are several reasons for an animal to die young:
  1. It has internal weaknesses which prevent it from living long.
  2. It lives in an environment which is likely to kill it regardless.
T. Rex was big, each adult representing a huge investment in energy. It would make sense for the species to live long so that each adult could reproduce as much as possible, so the internal weaknesses would tend to be selected against. But what about 2? If the environment (including other T. Rex's) made it very unlikely for an individual to live much past adulthood, the selective pressure would be on individuals to reproduce early and often instead of living long and reproducing over time. This would account for the very rapid growth to an abbreviated adulthood.

Elephants live to 60 or so, and some whales appear to live for a century or more (Eskimos finding antique bone harpoon points inside newly-killed whales being proof positive). If T. Rex didn't often make it past 30, that says something. Maybe that's why dinosaurs never evolved sapience, which guaranteed that they wouldn't travel in space and be able to avoid the disaster which wiped them out.

Re:What does that say about T. Rex's mortality rat (2, Insightful)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9950436)

Other dinosaurs also didn't live long. I've seen estimates that large sauropods didn't live over 30 to 50.

There's another reason they didn't evolve intelligence enough to escape their own destruction, as well. They fell into a lifestyle that didn't require it. Humans became intelligent partially because we didn't really have much else going for us. We weren't fast enough to catch prey, we didn't have furr to stay warm at night or dry in the rain, we didn't have the size to discourage predators or the strength to steal kills from them.

Dinosaurs have other things, though. Sauropods are fucking huge. They don't have to be smart, they're just plain big enough that very few other animals would mess with them. T.rex had its jaws, raptors had their claws and speed, hadrosaurs probably had a herd structure, stegosaurs, ceratopsians, and ankylosaurs had armor and weapons.

Herbivores don't really need intelligence. In fact, they're probably better off if they attack on reflex. The time they take to think things over could get them killed. Instead, like a horse, they see movement in their peripheral vision, and they kick you in the stomach. Good for the horse, bad for an unwary farm hand. Carnivores that have the sort of natural armament that tyranosaurs or raptors had only need intelligence on par with a canine or feline to be successful in hunting. More intelligence means more engergy being poured into the brain and not into other things.

Re:What does that say about T. Rex's mortality rat (2, Interesting)

Brand X (162556) | more than 9 years ago | (#9952974)

we didn't really have much else going for us. We weren't fast enough to catch prey
There's a theory out there that we really were fast enough to catch almost anything...
I've seen it in a few forms, proposed by human biologists [parkwayrunning.org], anthropologists [harvardmagazine.com], and even hard science fiction writers [davidbrin.com].
What's significant, however, is that it frames our ancestors as endurance runners, and suggests that we tended to run down prey by shedding heat better (keep in mind where we evolved) and absorbing and disipating shocks in our legs and spine. There's an interesting parallel between this and the archeological guesswork that led to the conclusions about the slowness of the T-Rex.
We may have evolved intelligence partly because it is far more significant to a strategic hunter than a tactical hunter... after all, instinct works pretty well for tactics, provided they don't change to fast. Look at raptors and seabirds, for instance...
Just a thought...

Fur? (1)

Nicolay77 (258497) | more than 9 years ago | (#9954128)

I believe that we evolved both culturally and genetically to be able to get clothings (leather at first) and THEN we evolved genetically to not to have fur.

That's logical to me. What other reason could you imagine to not to have fur?

And that furless also created the concept of being naked, but that's other topic.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

cjpez (148000) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948793)

Aaah, yes. I hadn't considered scavenging. That makes a bit more sense then. Thanks!

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (2, Insightful)

ajax0187 (615355) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948709)

Fast growth in living organisms isn't that unusual. There's bacteria (with the old example of a single bacteria cell multiplying quickly enough to cover the Earth in a day - under ideal conditions, of course). But even multicellular organisms grow fast, too. Some species of bamboo can grow six inches per day. Giant pumpkins can get 10 pounds heavier each day. In some parts of Alaska, the crops have much less time to grow than in the rest of the country, and yet the produce is HUGE (I'm talking heads of cabbage that are two feet in diameter).

And this holds true with animals, too. A blue whale is only a few hundred pounds when born, but it's weighing a couple tons by the end of its first year. Besides, T-rex was supposed to weigh about eight tons as an adult. Compared to something that big, 4.6 pounds ain't a whole lot.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (3, Insightful)

MammaMia (764083) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948823)

Well let's see. Elephants are born around 200 lbs and reach full size by age 20. Full size females are around 6-7000 lbs and males around 11-13000 lbs. So let's say 10,000 lbs (to facilitate simpler math) over 20 years (assuming steady growth, though it probably isn't) would be 500 lbs per year or 1.4 lb per day? I'd assume more of the growth would occur in the first few years since just about everything grows that way, so it may be more like 3-4 lbs per day in their youth. But I'm just speculating. Draw your own conclusions.

Re:Doesn't that seem a bit high? (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948954)

Herbivores have an easier time growing fast, though, since they can eat just about everything around them, and generally don't have to fight their food to the death. Which brings me back to my scavenger point: This is another big of evidence that T.rex was at least partially a scavenger, especially with the sheer size of animals like sauropods. With herds of sauropods around, you'd expect a couple fifty-ton corpses laying around at any given time. That's more than enough to fuel that sort of growth in a large scavenger.

T.Rex (2, Funny)

darth_MALL (657218) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948596)

used to rock the house. Until the pedophile charges, that is. Oh wait...that was Gary Glitter. My Bad.

Re:T.Rex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9957409)

The T. Rex was rendered extinct by the Green Leyland Mini.

Poster makes confusing statements yet again (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9948716)

RTFA. The 2kg/day growth lasts for 4 years during adolescent. The life span seems to be 20-28 years.

predator vs. scavenger solved? (2, Insightful)

cephyn (461066) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948804)

To sustain that kind of growth rate, i think that pretty much proves t. rex was a predator first and a scavenger second, and a pretty fearsome predator at that.

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (2, Insightful)

MammaMia (764083) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948895)

I'm curious how you'd come to that conclusion?

For overall growth you also have to consider activity... wouldn't t'rex burn a LOT more calories hunting than scavenging?? I'd think the info leans more toward supporting the idea of t'rex in all his fearsomeness, chasing away the hunters to move in on their kill.

Coming soon to a theater near you: Predator v. Scavenger! umm...

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (3, Insightful)

cephyn (461066) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948964)

yeah it burns more calories, but the rewards are MUCH higher. otherwise you have to wait for something to die, or be in the right place at the right time to chase someone else off.

I bet t. rex followed a pattern like lions....mostly lazy, but hunt when hungry....and if they happen on something dead, fantastic! bonus!

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (2, Informative)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949086)

Lions are quite adept scavengers. They make relatively few large kills themselves (especailly lone males), but pretty much have their pick of kills from other large cats, hyenas, and wild dogs. Hyenas, on the other hand, despite common belief, are the truely fearsome hunters of the region. They have one of the higest success rates in hunting of any carnivore. So do the African wild dogs for that matter. Neither one, however, is very good at keeping their kills when a pride of lions happens by. Cheetahs have the same problem. They're very good at catching their own prey, but very bad at keeping it. Leopards particularly will steal their kills at every turn.

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (1)

cephyn (461066) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949298)

im not saying they were EXACTLY like lions. just similar in that i bet when they weren't hunting, they were very sedentary. probably gorged on huge meals so that they wouldnt have to hunt every moment. Remember, their prey was giant sauropods...HUGE meals. could eat for a couple days on it as long as they sat by the kill.

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949639)

Actually, their prey would most likely have been hadrosaurs and the like, wether they were hunters first or second. Sauropods were the elephants of their time. All evidence suggests that nobody messed with an adult unless it was sick or injured, and even then at thier own peril. I've seen pictures of a fossil allosaurus crushed to death under a young sauropod that didn't even stand as tall as it did and had a broken back. However, as with most herd animals, within their range, there'd usually be one or two fairly recent corpses laying around for the taking, and nobody's better at taking than T.rex.

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (2, Funny)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 9 years ago | (#9950380)

Leopards particularly will steal their kills at every turn.

Yeah, I saw that once on National Geographic once:

Wildebeest takes 65 points of slashing damage!
Wildebeest is slain by -=l3pp4rd=-
CH3374-X: j0 d00d! WTF! u stole my kill!111
-=13pp4rd=-: HE AGGROD ME
CH3374-X: STFU b1tch. now I hav to regen stam.

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#9948972)

being a predator takes a LOT of energy(running around).

if you're the meanest creature in the block you can however just claim anything that someone else is eating(or if that someone else refuses just eat it too). depending on the habitat that may very well be a ticket to eating more with less energy spent on looking for the food(which is the whole point, having to spend less energy to find food why one would assume t-rex to have been a scavanger).

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (1)

cephyn (461066) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949234)

i just dont think that a creature could sustain a growth rate like that by waiting to find some food. its gonna have to hunt, a lot. even if that means hunting for food to scavenge, its still a lot of moving around!

Re:predator vs. scavenger solved? (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949273)

Scavengers don't have to wait. All they have to do is smell. There's always carrion to be found.

wow, you gots some good logics (1)

boarder (41071) | more than 9 years ago | (#9950054)

How in the hell did you come up with that "proof?"

Hunting uses a shitload of calories. Look at a cheetah vs a lion. A cheetah hunts and is skinny, while a lion is both a predator and scavenger and is much larger. An even better example is a female lion vs a male lion. The females hunt and are skinnier, while the males generally scavenge and are larger.

This growth rate isn't all that spectacular. Elephants and whales both acheive similar rates and they don't really hunt (baleen whales eat live prey, but they just swim and let things go into their mouths). If you look at all the large animals on Earth, most are either herbivores or eat slow moving prey. Scavengers don't need to use calories to find food... they can eat an animal that died of old age, an animal that a smaller predator killed, or even a wounded animal. Not only that, but TRex was eating 50 ton bohemoths. Stumbling upon one huge herbivore that died of old age would give enough food for a long time. All a TRex had to do was watch another predator hunt and kill its prey, then walk up and scare it off.

Sitting around doing nothing is the way to really gain weight. Running around hunting and killing is great exercise to keep lean and mean. Like you said, these guys were fearsome... they could scare most predators away from a kill. Sort of like a big bully taking your lunch money. They don't have to beat you up and expend energy to get food, just look big and mean.

I think the best way to get that big that fast is to sit around and wait for a 20 ton animal to get killed by something else, while also watching for any 50 ton animals to drop dead of old age.

What evidence is there that TRexes are scavengers? (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949189)

Sure the T Rex probably doesn't run that fast. But how fast can one of those huge sauropods run anyway?

Not saying that T Rexs don't scavenge. But why do so many people claim it's a scavenger just coz it can't move that fast? It only needs to move faster on _average_ than the prey. Even if the prey is faster at first, if the prey gets tired first and stops running, it's munch time.

Heck it only needs to bite off a 50kg bit of a sauropod tail every day or so and you should do the 2kg weight gain/day pretty easy, and the sauropod will probably just grow it back - 50kg out of 50 tons is like a 70kg human losing 70g of flesh+blood.

A sauropod could probably seriously injure a smaller predator dinosaur, but it should be harder to keep away a T Rex.

Re:What evidence is there that TRexes are scavenge (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949426)

I'm trying to find a link that isn't on a children's site. The major reason was speed. They couldn't move as fast as most bipedal herbivourous dinosaurds could. Some claims have been made that sauropods are about the same speed, and other that T.rex was faster.

Those tails coud easily break the sound barrier by turning their bodies. A monitor lizard can break a man's legs or back with their tail just by twisting their body slightly, and they're generally smaller than humans. Sauropods are much larger than T.rex, and even on the conservative measurement of things, the tips of their tails could break the sound barrier. If they were warm blooded, then that's even worse for the T.rex.

A swipe of the tail could crush their rib cage, snap their neck, break their legs, or crush their skull. Getting in close, they have to deal with getting their feet stepped on (broken legs and feet are generally terminal injuries for a hunter), and once they attack, there's the very real danger of the sauropod falling over on them, either a misstep while trying to flee, tripping over the T.rex itself, or intentionally rolling over the much smaller predator.

It comes down to the scale of a lion attacking a matriarch elephant. A lion *could* certainly survive taking one bite out of an elephant every day, but it wouldn't survive regular encounters with elephants for very long.

Re:What evidence is there that TRexes are scavenge (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9955098)

Y'know it may take a few seconds after the tail is chomped before the sauropod's rear brain actually realizes the tail is bitten and begins preparing it for supersonic speeds :). May be time enough to get clean away.

If there are plenty of obstacles around (trees, big plants, rocks) then tail swinging isn't going to work well.

Would the smaller/younger sauropods be faster than a T Rex? What's worse if they are moving through uncleared terrain. The T Rex behind just has to follow the "trail" the prey makes/clears.

I wonder if the sauropods actually move much - the heads probably do most of the moving as they munch. The legs are probably to move them to the new spot for the day and to hold them in position. Wonder how they manage to mate...

Cold-blooded, check it and see (1)

zolaar (764683) | more than 9 years ago | (#9949652)

IANAP (I am not a paleontologist), but...

Remember, folks: most scientists are of the belief that dinosaurs, including T.Rex, were cold-blooded. That means that the calories that mammals usually
use to maintain body heat (a VERY non-trivial amount) are not spent by reptiles. Thus, more of their caloric intake was diverted to their growth rate/spurts.

Seems to me that should be factored into the equation when deciding how much food an animal must consume to put on the pounds?

Thoughts? Am I off-base here?

Re:Cold-blooded, check it and see (2, Interesting)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 9 years ago | (#9950034)

Possibly. There has been discussion in recent years that they were warm-blooded in some ways. More info here [uiuc.edu].

Re:Cold-blooded, check it and see (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#9950156)

Am I off-base here?

Well, sorta yes and sorta no. There's argument both ways on the warm blooded/cold blooded issue. There's no general consensus either way. The evidence goes in different directions, and I don't really see anything here that would break the camel's back. (granted IANAP either)

Cold blooded animals do have a larger portion of their energy intake available for growth, but they also typically eat less, owing ot their inability to maintain the levels of activity a warm blooded predator can, grow slower because of that lower food intake, and live much longer. I don't know why on the last count, but a large tortoise can live well over 100 or 150 years, but the only land mammals that can survive over 70 without the aid of modern medicine are elephants.

T.rex grows very fast, but also (by modern standards) has a very short life span wether it's warm or cold blooded. Maybe its cold blooded and commits a great deal of energy to growth, maybe its warm blooded and has a monumental food intake - think of the size of a sauropod. Wether it hunted or scavenged them, even one dead sauropod could fuel this sort of growth in a group of T.rex for some time.

There's enough food there either way.

Species lifespan not that linked to metabolism (2, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9958781)

It's not so much to do with metabolism.

A species "natural" lifespan appears to be more linked to how likely a creature is to die of reasons other than old age.

It is unlikely you'd evolve a body that'll last 200 years when you're likely to be eaten by the time you're 5 years old, or have a fatal accident.

That's the current theory why rats don't live for very long whereas bats do (up to 30 years for some bats).

Compare the lifespan of tortoises vs snakes. And compare the types of snakes too.

The creatures likely to be eaten or stomped to death at an early age aren't likely to live that long even if you keep them in optimal conditions.

Did anyone check the math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9950377)

2000lbs/day * 365days * 10day/years = 7,300,000 lbs
If the average person weighs 160lbs, one trex would have the same weight as a city with a population 45,625 people.

A trex would weigh more than 54 M1B1 tanks.
A trex would wiegh more that 15 A380s at max capacity.

So the numbers aren't adding up to the weight of a Trex then what did he weigh?

Re:Did anyone check the math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9955965)

Go back to grade 10.

Dumbass.

In related news.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9951878)

Scientist believe they may be able to recover T. Rex genes from Kirstie Alley and Carney Wilson.
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