Unique New Tyrannosaurs Hunt Using Their ‘Sixth Sense’
A new study uncovers minute details on the facial structure of tyrannosaurs, particularly an ultra-sensitive snout that's powerful enough to be dubbed as their very own "sixth sense."
According to a report from Gizmodo, a team of international scientists analyzed the newly discovered and remarkably well-preserved fossils of a new species of tyrannosaurs named Daspletosaurus horneri. Studying these fossils and comparing them with other species such as crocodiles, birds and mammals, the researchers realized that the formidable dinosaur is equipped with an eerie sixth sense that helps it thrive as a predator.
Like many tyrannosaurs, the D. horneri is fearsome with a gigantic skull and a proportionally large tail. It stood 7.2 feet (2.2 meters) tall and was 29 feet (9 meters) long. Study leader Thomas Carr of the Carthage College and his team revealed that their findings showed that the dinosaur featured small patches of armor-like skin and horns, while flat scales covered its massive face.
These scales are important also because it played a huge role in making the D. horneri's snout remarkably sensitive. Furthermore, this hypersensitive snout is a trait that's present in all tyrannosaurs, not just the newly discovered species.
In particular, the team discovered the presence of a trigeminal nerve in the fossils. This sensory nerve is not unique to tyrannosaurs; its found in other animals, manifesting in various sixth senses such as birds detecting magnetic fields, alligators sensing vibrations in the water and more.
"[The] trigeminal is evolutionarily important and worthy of intense scientific attention," Carr said. "The public does not often consider individual nerves or organ systems as having their own evolutionary history, but our research put attention on the bigger picture of the evolution of the trigeminal nerve and how is is pivotal in providing insight into how archosaurs [a family of animals that includes both crocodylians and dinosaurs] navigated and interacted with the world and each other."
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.