March 15, 2016

Timurlengia Euotica: The Missing Link to Tyrannosaurus Rex



Scientists have discovered a missing link in the evolution of ­nature’s most notorious killing machine. 

Scottish, Russian and US palaeontologists have uncovered the remains of a forerunner of Tyrannosaurus rex, the ferocious hunter that dominated the world in the dinosaurs’ dying days.

The horse-sized Timurlengia euotica, which pounded the Earth about 90 million years ago, was unveiled today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of ­Sciences.

“Timurlengia was a nimble pursuit hunter with slender, blade-like teeth suitable for slicing through meat,” said co-author Hans Sues of the Smithsonian ­Institution in Washington.

“It probably preyed on large plant-eaters, especially early duck-billed dinosaurs.”

The Smithsonian said tyrannosaurs had first emerged during the Jurassic Period, about 170 million years ago, and were only slightly bigger than people.

By the Late Cretaceous Period, around 100 million years later, they had evolved into monsters like T-rex, which weighed up to seven tonnes.

Lead author Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh, said tyrannosaurs had been the last in a series of “colossal” apex predators to fill the “large predator niche” and then disappeared. He told The Australian that the new creature, which was found in the Kyzylkum Desert of Uzbekistan, filled a 20 million-year fossil gap in the evolution of tyrannosaurs.

While Timurlengia was probably not a direct ancestor of T-rex, it provided a “blueprint” of what was to come.

“It tells us that tyrannosaurs evolved their advanced brains and senses at small body size, many millions of years before they ­became huge,” Dr ­Brusatte said.

“Those early-evolving senses may have helped them rise up and become super predators. Tyrannosaurs got smart before they got big.”

The study found that Timurlengia weighed up to 270kg and was probably a fast runner. While its skull was much smaller than that of T-rex, it had advanced cognitive abilities and keen senses, including the ability to hear low-frequency sounds.

This positioned tyrannosaurs to exploit the opportunity to reach the top of the food chain after the previous top dogs, the allosaurs, died out about 90 million years ago.

Dr Brusatte said if it had not been for the asteroid thought to have wiped out terrestrial dinosaurs about 67 million years ago, Timurlengia’s descendants could still be around today. “T-rex was about as utterly dominant as an apex predator could get,” he said. “It displaced everything else. It was the king.”

By John Ross
With many thanks to The Australian 

For Ashleigh - the family expert on dinosaurs!

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