Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earliest Tyrannosauroid rediscovered in museum collection

Date:
January 6, 2010
Source:
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Summary:
A long forgotten fossil skull in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London has now provided crucial clues to the early stages of the lengthy evolutionary history of Tyrannosaurus rex and related large carnivorous dinosaurs.

Fossil skull of Proceratosaurus, looked after in the collections of London's Natural History Museum. It is the oldest-known relative of T. rex and it lived 165 million years ago.
Credit: Image courtesy of Natural History Museum of London

Tyrannosaurus rex and related large carnivorous dinosaurs together form the family Tyrannosauridae. A long forgotten fossil skull in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London has now provided crucial clues to the early stages of the lengthy evolutionary history of these fearsome predators. Almost a century after its discovery, the specimen, named Proceratosaurus, has now been recognized as the oldest known relative of the Tyrannosauridae.

With the help of an ultramodern imaging technique, a team of researchers led by Dr. Oliver Rauhut from LMU Munich and Dr. Angela Milner from the Natural History Museum London, have been able to show that Proceratosaurus resembled its approximately 100-million-years younger descendant T. rex in a number of ways. The teeth, the jaws, and the structure of the cranial cavity of the two species have many features in common. Proceratosaurus weighed only about 40 kg, says Rauhut. Nevertheless, like the later tyrannosauroids, the animal obviously depended on its powerful biting apparatus. Later modifications of the jaw muscles and the overall structure of the cranium then gave rise to the perfect hunting weapon wielded by T. rex.

Among the dinosaur specimen housed in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London is an almost complete skull that was found in the West of England about 100 years ago. The fossil was initially misclassified, but was later recognized as representing an otherwise unknown genus, which was named Proceratosaurus. The skull has only recently been subject to detailed study by a team led by the palaeontologist Dr. Oliver Rauhut, who holds dual appointments in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich and the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology, and Dr Angela Milner, Associate Keeper of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in London.

This skull, which had been overlooked for so long, turns out to be a spectacular find. Proceratosaurus is the earliest known ancestor of the family Tyrannosauridae (named after its most famous representative Tyrannosaurus rex). Proceratosaurus and T. rex were both bipedal carnivores and each had a massive body, short and stubby forelimbs, a powerful tail, and sharp teeth set in a bulky skull. The best known members of the family, T. rex, lived during the late cretaceous period, although smaller species are known from the earlier Jurassic era.

Little is known about the origins and later evolution of this important group of dinosaurs. Proceratosaurus could now cast much needed light on the process. "It is quite astonishing that this fossil has received so little attention, since it is one of the best preserved dinosaur skulls in Europe," reports Rauhut. Parts of the skull that were still embedded in the rock matrix and these had to be exposed carefully by preparator Scott Moore-Fay at the Natural Histsory Museum in London; the team also used an advanced imaging technique to probe the detailed structure of the fossil.

"Computerized tomography is a wonderful method, because it offers us a non-destructive means of visualizing the internal structures of fossils," says Angela Milner, the researcher responsible for the specimen at the Natural History Museum, who personally took the fossil to Texas, where the tomographic scan was performed. Detailed studies of the resulting images and of the skull itself were subsequently carried out back in London.

The investigations uncovered a wide range of features in the cranial cavity, teeth and jaws that Proceratosaurus shares with the huge T. rex, despite the fact that the Proceratosaurus skull is about 100 million years older and much smaller. The Proceratosaurus cranium was about five times less massive than that of its mighty relative, and the intact animal appears to have weighed only about 40 kg. Mature specimens of Tyrannosaurus, in contrast, weighed in at up to eight tons.

Because the Proceratosaurus skull already displays characteristics that are typical of its later descendants, the powerful jaw with its slicing teeth was probably the animal's most important weapon. "It is likely that this hunting strategy developed first," says Rauhut. The basic tool kit was perfected in later tyrannosaurids: The skull became more robust and the jaw muscles larger and, overall, the body increased enormously in size. Proceratosaurus also confirms that the tyrannosauridae developed over a very long stretch of time, and gave rise to a great diversity of forms. Further members of the family surely await discovery."

The study was financially supported by the SYNTHESIS program of the European Union.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Oliver Rauhut, Angela Milner and Scott Moore-Fay. Cranial osteology and phylogenetic position of the theropod dinosaur Proceratosaurus bradleyi (Woodward, 1910) from the Middle Jurassic of England. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2009.00591.x

Cite This Page:

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. "Earliest Tyrannosauroid rediscovered in museum collection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091104122538.htm>.
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. (2010, January 6). Earliest Tyrannosauroid rediscovered in museum collection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091104122538.htm
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. "Earliest Tyrannosauroid rediscovered in museum collection." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091104122538.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) — A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins