When you think of Tyrannosaurus Rex, you might picture a roaring beast crashing through trees or tearing at its prey.
However, a more realistic image might involve the theropod dinosaur carefully crafting a fork with which to pick up a carcass, or peacefully interacting with its friends.
That’s because new research from Vanderbilt University in the US has revealed that T. rex may have had the same number of brain neurons as modern primates.
If it were, it would have been able to solve problems, create tools to use it, and even engage in cultural behaviors.
New research from Vanderbilt University in the US has found that T. rex (pictured) may have had the same number of brain neurons as modern primates
Relationship between brain and body mass in dinosaurs and modern animals. Asterisks = dinosaurs, red polygons = modern birds, green stings = modern non-avian sauropsids, red circles = primates
WHAT WAS T.REX?
Tyrannosaurus rex was a species of bird-like, carnivorous dinosaur.
It lived 68 to 66 million years ago in what is now western North America.
They could grow up to 12 meters long and 4 meters high.
More than 50 fossilized specimens of T. rex have been collected so far.
The monstrous beast had one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom.
An artist’s rendering of T. rex
Dinosaurs ruled the earth for about 179 million years before being suddenly wiped out in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event about 66 million years ago.
Previously, certain species had evolved bird-like features such as feathers, wings, claws, and enlarged skulls.
This was a gradual process that began 100 million years ago and lasted tens of millions of years.
The small body size of some of these bird-like species is believed to have helped them avoid extinction and allowed them to evolve into modern birds.
Because dinosaur soft tissues are rarely preserved in fossils, not much is known definitively about their brains.
However, since they are known to be related to birds, information about them could be gleaned from the brains of modern-day emus and ostriches.
For the study, published in the Journal Of Comparative Neurology, Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel set out to discover the cognitive abilities of dinosaurs like T. rex by looking at the brains of modern sauropsids – birds, turtles and scaled reptiles.
Recent studies have shown that birds are intelligent despite their small heads.
For example, jays can resist the temptation to get a better reward, while crows have been described as being as smart as seven-year-olds.
Birds have been found to have more neurons per gram of brain compared to mammals and primates, giving them the ability to solve problems.
Dinosaurs began evolving into birds in the late Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago. A family tree is shown showing this development
It’s officially new: T. rex had a baboon-like number of brain neurons, meaning it had what it takes to build tools, solve problems, and live up to 40 years, enough to build a culture! Paper just came out in J Comp Neurol. The reality was actually scarier than the movies! pic.twitter.com/6HafJVHQlk
— Suzana Herculano-Houzel (@suzanah) January 5, 2023
dr Herculano-Houzel used CT scans to study the fossilized skulls of theropods — a group of two-legged dinosaurs that includes T. rex — and existing sauropsids.
She concluded that the dinosaurs had brain mass similar to that of birds of the same size, which can be traced back to before the asteroid.
Therefore, the neuroscientist could make assumptions about the T. rex’s brain by magnifying that of an emu, an ostrich, or a chicken, since they are proportional to each other.
Next, she calculated how many neurons theropods would have had, using the number and brain mass that sauropsids are known to possess.
Relationship between neuron number and body mass in dinosaurs and modern animals. Asterisks = dinosaurs, red polygons = modern birds, green stings = modern non-avian sauropsids, red circles = primates
Estimates of the number of neurons in dinosaur and pterosaur species compared to modern primates. Values under each image are number of telencephalic neurons (in millions, M) and brain mass (in grams)
Their results suggest that T. rex would have had a brain mass of 343 grams and 3,289,000,000 telencephalic neurons, not far from the 2,875,000,000 found in baboons.
A separate study by Dr. Herculano-Houzel found that the number of neurons in warm-blooded animals correlates with their lifespan through a mathematical equation.
Using this equation, she suggests that the T. rex would have lived between 42 and 49 years, although the oldest known specimen was estimated to be 28 years old.
In her study she wrote: “An elephant-sized but agile biped carnivore with macaque- or baboon-like perception must have been an extremely competent predator indeed.
“The present results invite speculation that theropod dinosaurs like T. rex, with even more telencephalic neurons than modern tool-using and tool-building corvids, had the biological ability to use and make tools and evolve a culture like modern birds and primates.”
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T. rex was 70% LARGER than previously thought and could weigh up to 33,000 pounds, according to study
The infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex – or T. rex – may have weighed up to 15,000kg when it roamed the earth.
That’s a little more than the weight of two elephants or a double-decker bus in London, and 70 percent more than previously thought.
Researchers at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa built a model that predicted the maximum size of the prehistoric animal.
So far, only 32 adult T. rex specimens have been discovered out of an estimated population of 2.5 billion.
The largest of these is “Scotty”, which weighed more than 8,800 kg and was more than 13 m long when it roamed what is now western North America 68 to 66 million years ago.
However, researchers say the specimens discovered may not be an accurate representation of the species, and undiscovered individuals may have been much larger.
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