Standing 12 metres tall with huge powerful jaws lined with slashing teeth, the T Rex was undoubtedly one of the most fearsome creatures to roam the Earth.
But quite how tyrannosaurs became the giant, intelligent predators that dominated the landscape some 66 million years ago has remained something of a mystery.
Now, the remains of a new species of horse-sized dinosaur, named Timurlengia euotica, unearthed in Uzbekistan has given researchers key insights into how a family of small-bodied dinosaurs evolved over millions of years to become fearsome giants.
The species’ skull was much smaller than that of T. rex, indicating that it did not grow to the same enormous size. However, key features of Timurlengia’s skull reveal that its brain and senses were already highly developed, the team says.
“The ancestors of T. rex would have looked a whole lot like Timurlengia, a horse-sized hunter with a big brain and keen hearing that would put us to shame,” said the University of Edinburgh’s Steve Brusatte. “Only after these ancestral tyrannosaurs evolved their clever brains and sharp senses did they grow into the colossal sizes of T. rex. Tyrannosaurs had to get smart before they got big.