T. rex’s uncommon eye sockets helped it evolve a robust chew

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Some giant, meat-eating dinosaurs equivalent to Tyrannosaurus rex had keyhole-shaped eye sockets, and reconstructions recommend this helped them chew with higher power

Life



11 August 2022

Skull and life reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus rex with original eye socket and eye (left) and hypothetical reconstruction with circular eye socket and enlarged eye (right).

Tyrannosaurus rex with its authentic eye socket and eye (left) and a hypothetical reconstruction with a round eye socket and enlarged eye (proper)

Stephan Lautenschlager, College of Birmingham

The attention socket of Tyrannosaurus rex performed an vital half in how the large carnivores advanced among the strongest bites of all time.

The skulls of some large, meat-eating dinosaurs include a puzzling characteristic: slightly than being spherical, the bony eye socket, additionally known as the orbit, is keyhole-shaped.

“Orbits and eyes are poorly studied in dinosaurs relative to different elements of their anatomy,” says Stephan Lautenschlager on the College of Birmingham, UK – notably the variation in orbit form between dinosaur teams.

After surveying the form of eye openings throughout dinosaurs and their family, Lautenschlager discovered that a lot of the animals within the research had kind of spherical orbits. The primary exceptions had been massive carnivores equivalent to grownup T. rex, Skorpiovenator and Cryolophosaurus. These distantly associated carnivores all shared the keyhole orbit form.

The weird opening of their skulls could also be the results of an evolutionary trade-off between bigger eyes and extra highly effective chew forces. Laptop fashions recommend {that a} smaller eye allowed for extra muscle attachments within the cranium that might have allowed these dinosaurs to evolve stronger bites, whereas a bigger orbit, and due to this fact a bigger eye, wouldn’t have offered a lot further profit.

In stress exams of skulls with completely different eye shapes, the keyhole orbits had been higher in a position to dissipate the stresses of biting onerous than spherical ones.

“Eyes are physiologically very costly and there may be possible a compromise between getting bigger eyes, which might allow higher sight, versus stress discount,” says Lautenschlager, with the latter being extra vital for these carnivores.

The brand new research has main implications for analysis into how carnivorous dinosaurs matured, says Andre Rowe on the College of Bristol, UK, who wasn’t concerned within the work. The juveniles of dinosaurs equivalent to T. rex had round orbits like most different dinosaurs. As T. rex grew up, nonetheless, its cranium form and anatomy modified dramatically.

“Juveniles preyed on agile, small prey, whereas adults dispatched giant prey with a single chew,” says Rowe, and the orbit form performed a component on this menu shift.

Journal reference: Communications Biology, DOI: 10.1038/s42003-022-03706-0

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