Discovery of T. rex relative puts new face on prehistoric predators

Published: Mar. 30, 2017 at 2:16 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2017 at 2:29 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - An LSU professor was among a team of scientists who discovered a new dinosaur that lived in Montana about 75.2-74.4 million years ago.

Dr. Jayc Sedlmayr, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology & Anatomy at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, was part of the team to give insight as an evolutionary biologist.

The dinosaur is a new tyrannosaur with the scientific name of Daspletosaurus Horneri, which translates to mean "Horner's Frightful Lizard." This dinosaur slowly morphed from its older relative D. torosus. They are all relatives of the most familiar family member, the Tyrannosaurus rex.

What the team learned from this new discovery has changed the face of tyrannosaurs, literally.

Lipless with flat scales, armor-like skin and horn, and a highly touch-sensitive snout are the characteristics that make this dinosaur unique. That snout is particularly interesting because of the trigeminal nerve.

"In some ways, the facial components of the trigeminal nerve of these dinosaurs mirrors that of humans," says Sedlmayr. "The human trigminal nerve provides significant tough sensitivity to the face. It brings back sensation from our facial muscles allowing us to fine tune and coordinate the emotional and social displays so important to human communication. This nerve is so sensitive that in pathological conditions, trigeminal neuraligia, it can be responsible for some of the most severe pain our species can endure; in extreme cases, the pain is so great that many people suffering from it end up committing suicide."

But all they had were bones, right? How do they know what nerves this dinosaur may or may not have had?

"Much of our research went beyond field paleontology – it was generated from lab-based comparative anatomy, the dissection of birds as living dinosaurs and crocodilians as their closest living relatives," explains Sedlmayr. "Based on the similarities of the facial nerves and arteries we found in those same groups which left a trace on the bone, we were able to then reconstruct in the new tyrannosaur species."

The team was led by Dr. Thomas Carr of Carthage College's Department of Biology. The team also included Dr. David Varricchio of Montana State University, Dr. Eric Roberts of James Cook University and Dr. Jason Moore of the University of New Mexico.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.