Tyrannosaur Fossil Shows Intelligence Came Before Brawn

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Plenty of people know about the most famous tyrannosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex, even if their overall knowledge of dinosaurs is quite poor.

That’s because the huge predator was around 40 feet long and weighed a few tons, putting it at the top of the food chain. At the end of the dinosaur age, Tyrannosaurus rex was a dominant force. However a new fossil shows that the first tyrannosaurus was in fact about the size of a person.

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New fossil could fill in evolutionary history of tyrannosaur

Until now scientists hadn’t properly understood what happened in the middle. A fossil found in Uzbekistan is providing researchers with more information on the evolutionary history of the Tyrannosaurus rex because it has the same characteristics as its huge successor without the size.

“It has long been thought that tyrannosaurs were such successful predators, in part, because of their large brains and ears well-attuned to low-frequency sound,” said Stephen L. Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and lead author of a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing the new dinosaur. “The new Uzbek tyrannosaur has basically the same brain as T. rex — same shape, proportions, etc. — just smaller.”

Brusatte says that the fossils is evidence that the tyrannosaurus developed its intelligence before its size. “It is one of the closest cousins of T. rex and tells us that tyrannosaurs evolved sophisticated brains and senses before they became colossal apex predators,” Dr. Brusatte said.

Scientists excited by Uzbekistan find

The first tyrannosaurs were far smaller than contemporary meat-eaters like Allosaurus. Then there is a fossil gap which means that the only evidence of tyrannosaurs comes later, when they had evolved into huge predators.