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T. rex might not be so hot after all



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Graphic thermal representation of T. rex with its "cooling holes" illuminated on the skull.


University of Missouri / Brian Eng

Dealing with prehistoric heat and humidity must have been difficult, even for a cold-blooded thunder lizard.

New research shows that the most feared dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex, may have carried its own cooling system into its skull.

The terrifyingly old T. rex had two large holes in the roof of the bone of his head, which scientists thought were filled with muscle to help move his large powerful jaw.

But the idea never made much sense to Professor of Anatomy at Missouri Medical University Casey Holiday.

"It's really a weird muscle to get out of your jaw, make a 90-degree turn and walk on the roof of your skull," Holiday said in a release.

For a closer look at what might happen to the Swiss rearing regions of T. rex skulls, Holiday and other researchers turned to one of the closest things dinosaurs still go around: alligators.

"We know that, like T. rex, alligators have holes in the roof of their skulls and they are filled with blood vessels," says Larry Whitmer, professor of anatomy at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University. "Yet, for more than 100 years, we've been putting muscle in a similar space to dinosaurs."

Researchers brought thermal imaging cameras to the St. Augustine Alligator Zoo in Florida, where they found that the area around the reptile openings of reptiles appeared to be hotter or colder depending on the outside temperature.

"When it was cooler and the alligators were trying to warm up, our thermal images showed big hot spots in those holes in their skull roof, which showed an increase in temperature. And yet, later in the day when it is warmer, the holes look dark, as if they were ruled out to be preserved, "explained Kent Vliet of the University of Florida Department of Biology. "This is consistent with previous evidence that alligators have a cross-circulatory system – or an internal thermostat, so to speak."

Researchers believe that studying the holes in the skulls of living animals and comparing them with similar characteristics of dinosaur fossils could overturn the long-held notion that the gaps in T. rex's head are filled with muscle. Instead, they can be vents for a prehistorically variable block.

The complete study was published in The Anatomical Record.

Holiday told me that team observations on live alligators are only a starting point and further study is needed to determine how holes can be part of a temperature control system that develops over millions years.

"We cannot say for sure the direction of the temperature flow at this time. However, given the differences in heat signals during the day and our still unclear understanding of the temperature regulation in the alligators, we felt confident that this device had value. "

So, please let the scientists continue to care and do some research on this idea before anyone gets any ideas for punching holes in their heads to cool down. Consider this your daily reminder that you are NOT reptilian. Thank you.


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