A newly discovered species of tyrannosaur, not much bigger than humans, could hold the key to understanding why the fearsome dinosaurs grew so big.
The fossilized remains of the animal were discovered by an international team of scientists in Uzbekistan, BBC News reports. They have named it Timurlengia.
The 90-million-year-old beast was only 3 meters long and weighed about 240 kilograms, The Telegraph quoted the scientists as saying.
But its ears and brain were crucial to the tyrannosaurs’ rise to dominance, the scientists said.
“It’s one of the very closest cousins of T-Rex, but a lot smaller – about the size of a horse,” the BBC quoted lead researcher Dr. Stephen Brusatte, from the University of Edinburgh, as saying.
“And it comes from the middle part of the Cretaceous period – a point where we have a huge gap in the fossil record.”
This 20-million-year gap in the record has made T-Rex, which was up to 13 meters from head to tail, something of an evolutionary mystery.
But the latest discovery could help resolve the puzzle.
Brusatte explained: “It has features of its bones that are also found in T-Rex. So this is evolving features that would eventually allow T-Rex to become this super-dominant top-of-the-food-chain animal.”
A study of Timurlengia’s skeleton revealed that its brain and ear “were almost identical to T-Rex”, he said.
“So it had all the central processing unit there, all the intelligence, all the keen senses of T-Rex and maybe that’s what allowed T-Rex to become so big.”
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