Fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex was actually a 'sensitive lover,' say scientists

Science

Fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex was actually a ‘sensitive lover,’ say scientists

It’s rather difficult to picture: the most terrifying predator in Earth’s history, nuzzling up to its lover tenderly before sex. But T. rex may not have been quite as ferocious as they’re made out to be, with scientists finding that the 20-foot carnivore actually had a snout as sensitive as human fingertips. Scientists believe that the tyrannosaurs may have rubbed their faces together in a form of foreplay and used their snouts to pick up eggs and baby tyrannosaurs. The findings come from the discovery of an unusually intact skull of a member of the tyrannosaur family, Daspletosaurus horneri, in Montana.

In courtship, tyrannosaurids might have rubbed their sensitive faces together as a vital part of precopulatory play.

Researchers, writing in the Scientific Reports journal

Scientists said the face of the D. horneri gave the most important clues about the Tyrannosaurus anatomy. It is believed that T. rex had large, flat scales on its face, with areas of tough protective skin around the snout and jaws. But the hard surface around the nose was penetrated by small nerve openings, which would have allowed hundreds of branches of the trigeminal nerve — responsible for sensation in the face — to run through to the surface of the dinosaur’s nose. This would effectively have turned the T. rex’s face into a kind of third “hand,” as sensitive to touch as a human finger tip. Other animals also have this sensitivity nerve — cats through their whiskers and crocodiles in their snouts to sense touch and vibrations in the water. Migrating birds also use it to detect magnetic fields.

Our finding of a complex sensory web is especially interesting because it is derived from the trigeminal nerve, which has an extraordinary evolutionary history of developing into wildly different 'sixth senses’ in different vertebrates.

Professor Jayc Sedlmayr, from Louisiana State University