Map blogger. Science fiction and fantasy critic and writer. Snake whisperer.

Tag: Tyrannosaurus

Important Tyrannosaurus Updates

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A new study argues that what we know as Tyrannosaurus rex is actually a cluster of three species. The division is based on physical differences between the 37 fossil specimens found to date, plus there’s some variation in the age of the rocks in which the fossils were found. The researchers, led by paleoartist Gregory Paul, propose Tyrannosaurus imperator as the oldest and more robust species, with Sue as its holotype; the other two species, T. rex and T. regina, were contemporaneous, with T. regina the more gracile of the two (T. rex’s holotype is unchanged, T. regina’s is the Wankel Rex). The proposal is contentious to say the least: the best coverage of the debate I’ve seen comes from National Geographic’s Michael Greshko.

Another well-known specimen, Stan, would also become T. regina. Stan more or less disappeared from public view when he was auctioned for $31.8 million in October 2020. At the time no one knew who the buyer was, but Greshko (again: working full-time at the tyrannosaur desk) managed to work it out from trade records: Stan went to the United Arab Emirates. It’s just been confirmed that he’ll be the star of a new natural history museum now under construction in Abu Dhabi.

Update: Riley Black is tired of talking about T. rex, in a Slate piece that echoes something she wrote for the Grauniad eleven years ago: that there’s more to dinosaurs, and there’s other dinosaurs, than T. rex.

T. Rex Machina

In the Jurassic Park movies, the Tyrannosaurus rex is more than a deadly predator bent on eating everyone and everything in its path. It also serves a key plot function above and beyond that of mere antagonist.

I’ll explain.

You are perhaps familiar with the concept of deus ex machina? Wikipedia calls it “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.” It’s the sudden rescue at the end, the long-lost relative who adopts you as their heir, the bacteria that kill the Martians just before all is lost.

I’d like to propose the idea of the T. rex machina—the plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of a T. rex.

The Unfeathered Tyrannosaur

Ever since tyrannosauroid fossils (namely, Dilong and Yutyrannus) started turning up with evidence of feathers, the idea that the Big T and its close relatives were at least partially feathered themselves was awfully intriguing. I mean, basal coelurosaurs had feathers, early tyrannosauroids had feathers—it stood to reason. But a new study examining fossilized tyrannosaur skin impressions concludes that Tyrannosaurus and its close relatives Albertosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Gorgosaurus and Tarbosaurus had scaly skin rather than feathers. Size may be one reason why: large mammals are less hairy for heat-loss reasons (the exceptions being arctic dwellers like mammoths).

I admit to some disappointment: I was more invested in the idea of a feathered T. rex than I ought to have been.

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