Debates pertaining to the tyrannosaurs continue to rage between paleontologists and dinosaur experts. Fossils and bones of the creatures were dug up from many parts of the world, but scientists are unable to determine whether the tyrannosaurs possessed scaly, armor-like skin, or whether they had tufts of feather covering their body.
Conventional thinking holds that these dinosaurs were scaly just like present-day alligators and crocodiles. On the other hand, a new school of thought suggests that all tyrannosaurs had feather covering their skin. A new study performed on the fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex’s skin may finally settle the debate once and for all.
Tyrannosaurus rex Skin Study
University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons and his team undertook a study in which they analyzed the new T-Rex skin unearthed near Baker, Montana, and compared them with other tyrannosaurus fossils such as Tarbosaurus, Gorgosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and Albertosaurus.
The team discovered that all the tyrannosaurus relatives shared a scale-like pebbly skin and did not show any indication of ever having any feather covering. This finding led them to conclude that a majority of the T-Rex were most likely feather-less.
However, the team stated that this does not prove that feathers were absent in all the T-Rex’s, but shows that the feature was not very commonly found in these ancient creatures. Earlier relatives of the T-Rex and tyrannosaurus family members who pre-dated the former member most likely had feathers.
The research indicates that as the species evolved, it lost the feather covering. By the time T-Rex arrived on the scene, the species may have been left completely devoid of the feathers.
Why The T-Rex Shed Its Feathers
Scientists posit that the feathers may have disappeared over time when the tyrannosaurs began growing larger. These big dinosaurs chased after their prey and the feather covering would have likely been an impediment.
Secondly, with such large bodies, the tyrannosaurs needed to stay cool after a chase, which would have been near impossible with feathers covering their bodies.
“If you think about really, really big terrestrial mammals today, like elephants, rhinos, hippos, and cape buffaloes, although they are not hairless, they are very much reduced in the amount of hair that they do have,” Persons explained.
However, not everyone is ready to accept the research’s results as conclusive proof that the T-Rex did not possess feathers. Stephen Brusatte, a tyrannosaurus expert at the Edinburgh University, believes that it is highly likely that the feather covering decreased with the creature’s size increase.
Brusatte claims that the study cannot effectively prove that the feathers disappeared completely. Instead, he points out that the feathers may have been present on the T-Rex, but did not stay preserved for over 50 million years.
The tyrannosaurus expert drives his point home by stating that even the fossil of a modern-day elephant would reveal crinkled and rough skin, but no hair. However, the animal possesses small amounts of hair on some parts of its body.
The study’s results were published in the journal Biology Letters.