New study solves an old mystery of the tyrannosaurus

A new study, produced by researchers from various American universities, has analyzed the two large holes in the skull of Tyrannosaurus Rex and comes to unexpected conclusions.

This area of the head of these ravenous dinosaurs, called the back of time window, has been a mystery for a long time. According to the main theory developed by paleontologists, these holes were full of muscles that helped the movement of the jaw.

However, Casey Holliday, professor of anatomy at the School of Medicine at the University of Missuori, had some doubts and decided to analyze again this strange anatomical conformation that characterizes the tyrannosaurs many other species of dinosaurs and arcosaurs. It all started when the researcher found strange the anatomical conformation proposed by the theory: the muscle would rise from the jaw, turn a 90° and then pass along the top of the skull.

Using the thermal imaging technique and examining alligators from a Florida zoo, Holliday and colleagues believe they have solved the mystery: the holes in the head serve as a “cross-current circulatory system,” as Kent Vliet, a researcher at the Department of Biology at the University of Florida, also employed in the study, says. This area of the skull was used to keep the temperatures of the skull lower, a sort of “internal thermostat” made by a particular vascular structure combined with adipose tissue.

Studying alligators, in fact, the researchers noted that when there were periods with lower temperatures, the thermography analysis showed large hot spots in the area of these holes and this indicated an increase in temperature. However, during the same day the holes appeared darker, as if they had been closed to keep the area cooler.

“Using the anatomy and physiology of today’s animals, we can show that we can reverse the first assumptions about the anatomy of this part of the skull of Tyrannosaurus Rex,” says Larry Witmer, professor of anatomy at the University of Ohio, another author of the study.


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