The running ability of Tyrannosaurus rex has been intensively studied due to its relevance to interpretations of feeding behaviour and the biomechanics of scaling in giant predatory dinosaurs. Different studies using differing methodologies have produced a very wide range of top speed estimates and there is therefore a need to develop techniques that can improve these predictions. Here we present a new approach that combines two separate biomechanical techniques (multibody dynamic analysis and skeletal stress analysis) to demonstrate that true running gaits would probably lead to unacceptably high skeletal loads in T. rex. Combining these two approaches reduces the high-level of uncertainty in previous predictions associated with unknown soft tissue parameters in dinosaurs, and demonstrates that the relatively long limb segments of T. rex-long argued to indicate competent running ability-would actually have mechanically limited this species to walking gaits. Being limited to walking speeds contradicts arguments of high-speed pursuit predation for the largest bipedal dinosaurs like T. rex, and demonstrates the power of multiphysics approaches for locomotor reconstructions of extinct animals.
Most carnivorous mammals can pulverize skeletal elements by generating tooth pressures between occluding teeth that exceed cortical bone shear strength, thereby permitting access to marrow and phosphatic salts. Conversely, carnivorous reptiles have non-occluding dentitions that engender negligible bone damage during feeding. As a result, most reptilian predators can only consume bones in their entirety. Nevertheless, North American tyrannosaurids, including the giant (13 metres [m]) theropod dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex stand out for habitually biting deeply into bones, pulverizing and digesting them. How this mammal-like capacity was possible, absent dental occlusion, is unknown. Here we analyzed T. rex feeding behaviour from trace evidence, estimated bite forces and tooth pressures, and studied tooth-bone contacts to provide the answer. We show that bone pulverization was made possible through a combination of: (1) prodigious bite forces (8,526-34,522 newtons [N]) and tooth pressures (718-2,974 megapascals [MPa]) promoting crack propagation in bones, (2) tooth form and dental arcade configurations that concentrated shear stresses, and (3) repetitive, localized biting. Collectively, these capacities and behaviors allowed T. rex to finely fragment bones and more fully exploit large dinosaur carcasses for sustenance relative to competing carnivores.
A new species of tyrannosaurid from the upper Two Medicine Formation of Montana supports the presence of a Laramidian anagenetic (ancestor-descendant) lineage of Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids. In concert with other anagenetic lineages of dinosaurs from the same time and place, this suggests that anagenesis could have been a widespread mechanism generating species diversity amongst dinosaurs, and perhaps beyond. We studied the excellent fossil record of the tyrannosaurid to test that hypothesis. Phylogenetic analysis places this new taxon as the sister species to Daspletosaurus torosus. However, given their close phylogenetic relationship, geographic proximity, and temporal succession, where D. torosus (~76.7-75.2 Ma) precedes the younger new species (~75.1-74.4 Ma), we argue that the two forms most likely represent a single anagenetic lineage. Daspletosaurus was an important apex predator in the late Campanian dinosaur faunas of Laramidia; its absence from later units indicates it was extinct before Tyrannosaurus rex dispersed into Laramidia from Asia. In addition to its evolutionary implications, the texture of the facial bones of the new taxon, and other derived tyrannosauroids, indicates a scaly integument with high tactile sensitivity. Most significantly, the lower jaw shows evidence for neurovasculature that is also seen in birds.
The Late Cretaceous (∼95-66 million years ago) western North American landmass of Laramidia displayed heightened non-marine vertebrate diversity and intracontinental regionalism relative to other latest Cretaceous Laurasian ecosystems. Processes generating these patterns during this interval remain poorly understood despite their presumed role in the diversification of many clades. Tyrannosauridae, a clade of large-bodied theropod dinosaurs restricted to the Late Cretaceous of Laramidia and Asia, represents an ideal group for investigating Laramidian patterns of evolution. We use new tyrannosaurid discoveries from Utah-including a new taxon which represents the geologically oldest member of the clade-to investigate the evolution and biogeography of Tyrannosauridae. These data suggest a Laramidian origin for Tyrannosauridae, and implicate sea-level related controls in the isolation, diversification, and dispersal of this and many other Late Cretaceous vertebrate clades.
Trace marks on the bones of non-avian dinosaurs may relate to feeding by large carnivores or as a result of combat. Here the cranium and mandible of a specimen of Daspletosaurus are described that show numerous premortem injuries with evidence of healing and these are inferred to relate primarily to intraspecific combat. In addition, postmortem damage to the mandible is indicative of late stage carcass consumption and the taphonomic context suggests that this was scavenging. These postmortem bites were delivered by a large bodied tyrannosaurid theropod and may have been a second Daspletosaurus, and thus this would be an additional record of tyrannosaurid cannibalism.
New tyrannosaur from the mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan clarifies evolution of giant body sizes and advanced senses in tyrant dinosaurs
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 4 years ago
Tyrannosaurids-the familiar group of carnivorous dinosaurs including Tyrannosaurus and Albertosaurus-were the apex predators in continental ecosystems in Asia and North America during the latest Cretaceous (ca. 80-66 million years ago). Their colossal sizes and keen senses are considered key to their evolutionary and ecological success, but little is known about how these features developed as tyrannosaurids evolved from smaller basal tyrannosauroids that first appeared in the fossil record in the Middle Jurassic (ca. 170 million years ago). This is largely because of a frustrating 20+ million-year gap in the mid-Cretaceous fossil record, when tyrannosauroids transitioned from small-bodied hunters to gigantic apex predators but from which no diagnostic specimens are known. We describe the first distinct tyrannosauroid species from this gap, based on a highly derived braincase and a variety of other skeletal elements from the Turonian (ca. 90-92 million years ago) of Uzbekistan. This taxon is phylogenetically intermediate between the oldest basal tyrannosauroids and the latest Cretaceous forms. It had yet to develop the giant size and extensive cranial pneumaticity of T. rex and kin but does possess the highly derived brain and inner ear characteristic of the latest Cretaceous species. Tyrannosauroids apparently developed huge size rapidly during the latest Cretaceous, and their success in the top predator role may have been enabled by their brain and keen senses that first evolved at smaller body size.
Recent evidence for feathers in theropods has led to speculations that the largest tyrannosaurids, including Tyrannosaurus rex, were extensively feathered. We describe fossil integument from Tyrannosaurus and other tyrannosaurids (Albertosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Gorgosaurus and Tarbosaurus), confirming that these large-bodied forms possessed scaly, reptilian-like skin. Body size evolution in tyrannosauroids reveals two independent occurrences of gigantism; specifically, the large sizes in Yutyrannus and tyrannosaurids were independently derived. These new findings demonstrate that extensive feather coverings observed in some early tyrannosauroids were lost by the Albian, basal to Tyrannosauridae. This loss is unrelated to palaeoclimate but possibly tied to the evolution of gigantism, although other mechanisms exist.
The skeletal record of tyrannosaurids is well-documented, whereas their footprint record is surprisingly sparse. There are only a few isolated footprints attributed to tyrannosaurids and, hitherto, no reported trackways. We report the world’s first trackways attributable to tyrannosaurids, and describe a new ichnotaxon attributable to tyrannosaurids. These trackways are from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian - Maastrichtian) of northeastern British Columbia, Canada. One trackway consists of three tridactyl footprints, and two adjacent trackways consist of two footprints each. All three trackways show animals bearing southeast within an 8.5 meter-wide corridor. Similarities in depth and preservation of the tyrannosaurid tracks indicate that these three trackways were made by track-makers walking concurrently in the same direction. These trackways add significantly to previous osteology-based hypotheses of locomotion and behavior in Tyrannosauridae by providing ichnologic support for gregariousness in tyrannosaurids, and the first record of the walking gait of tyrannosaurids.
The iconic tyrannosaurids were top predators in Asia and North America during the latest Cretaceous, and most species had deep skulls that allowed them to generate extreme bite forces. Two unusual specimens of Alioramus from Mongolia seem to indicate a divergent long-snouted body plan among some derived tyrannosaurids, but the rarity and juvenile nature of these fossils leaves many questions unanswered. Here, we describe a remarkable new species of long-snouted tyrannosaurid from the Maastrichtian of southeastern China, Qianzhousaurus sinensis. Phylogenetic analysis places Qianzhousaurus with both species of Alioramus in a novel longirostrine clade, which was geographically widespread across latest Cretaceous Asia and formed an important component of terrestrial ecosystems during this time. The new specimen is approximately twice the size as both Alioramus individuals, showing that the long-snouted morphology was not a transient juvenile condition of deep-snouted species, but a characteristic of a major tyrannosaurid subgroup.
The hypertrophied manual claws and modified manus of megaraptoran theropods represent an unusual morphological adaptation among carnivorous dinosaurs. The skeleton of Australovenator wintonensis from the Cenomanian of Australia is among the most complete of any megaraptorid. It presents the opportunity to examine the range of motion of its forearm and the function of its highly modified manus. This provides the basis for behavioural inferences, and comparison with other Gondwanan theropod groups. Digital models created from computed tomography scans of the holotype reveal a humerus range of motion that is much greater than Allosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus, Tyrannosaurus but similar to that of the dromaeosaurid Bambiraptor. During flexion, the radius was forced distally by the radial condyle of the humerus. This movement is here suggested as a mechanism that forced a medial movement of the wrist. The antebrachium possessed a range of motion that was close to dromaeosaurids; however, the unguals were capable of hyper-extension, in particular manual phalanx I-2, which is a primitive range of motion characteristic seen in allosaurids and Dilophosaurus. During flexion, digits I and II slightly converge and diverge when extended which is accentuated by hyperextension of the digits in particular the unguals. We envision that prey was dispatched by its hands and feet with manual phalanx I-2 playing a dominant role. The range of motion analysis neither confirms nor refutes current phylogenetic hypotheses with regards to the placement of Megaraptoridae; however, we note Australovenator possessed, not only a similar forearm range of motion to some maniraptorans and basal coelurosaurs, but also similarities with Tetanurans (Allosauroids and Dilophosaurus).