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Tyrannosaurus Rex, fierce and sensual

Press Association logoPress Association 30/03/2017

The Tyrannosaurus Tex may have been the most fearsome creature ever to walk the Earth, but he was also a sensitive lover, a new dinosaur discovery suggests.

The terrifying meat-eater, which stood 20 feet tall and had jaws bristling with serrated teeth up to nine inches long, had a snout as sensitive to touch as human fingertips, say scientists.

T-Rex and other "tyrannosaurs" would have used their tactile noses to investigate their surroundings, build nests, and carefully pick up fragile eggs and baby offspring.

But another possibility is that males and females enjoyed rubbing their sensitive faces together while mating, experts believe.

The US researchers wrote in the journal Scientific Reports: "In courtship, tyrannosaurids might have rubbed their sensitive faces together as a vital part of pre-copulatory play."

The findings follow the discovery of a new member of the tyrannosaur family called Daspletosaurus horneri (Horner's frightful lizard) in Montana, USA.

D-Horneri lived before T. rex around 74 million years ago and was three quarters the size of its later cousin, with a body length of nine metres.

Unusually well preserved fossil skulls and skeletons of several of the creatures were found, including adults and juveniles.

It was the face of D-Horneri that yielded the most important information, opening a new window on tyrannosaur evolution and anatomy.

Scientists believe the dinosaur and other tyrannosaurs including the T-Rex wore a mask of large, flat scales, with regions of tough and protective amour-like skin around the snout and jaws.

Strikingly, the hard surface of the snout was penetrated by numerous small nerve openings, or foramina.

These would have allowed hundreds of branches of the trigeminal nerve to access the surface of the snout, turning the dinosaur's whole face into a super-sensitive third "hand".

A similar arrangement is seen today in crocodiles and alligators, which have thousands of tiny sensitive bumps called integumentary sensory organs (ISOs) around their jaws.

Lead scientist Dr Thomas Carr, from Carthage College in Wisconsin, said: "Given that the foramina are identical in tyrannosaurs indicates that they had super-sensitive skin as well."

The trigeminal nerve plays a special sensory role in many mammals, reptiles and birds, carrying sensory signals from whiskers and electrical receptors and enabling the pit viper to home in on infra-red radiation from warm-blooded prey.

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