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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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New Faces for Famous Dinos
1 October 1998 7:00 pm
SNOWBIRD, UTAH--The popular image of a Tyrannosaurus rex licking its snarling lips may have to be kissed goodbye. According to research presented here today at the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, the fearsome predator of the Cretaceous probably didn't have any chops whatsoever. But experts say that even without lips, T. rex would still have been an efficient killer.
Dinosaur reconstructions are often based on what "looks right," says Larry Witmer, a vertebrate paleontologist at Ohio University in Athens who specializes in the anatomy of dinosaur heads. Thus artists and sculptors have given T. rex thick muscular lips for smacking. Paleontologists have also thought that the vegetarian Triceratops sported muscular cheeks to aid in chewing, like sheep. To test these two assumptions, Witmer and his colleagues examined the carcasses of large mammals, as well as the closest living relatives of dinosaurs: birds and crocodiles.
First of all, Witmer points out, birds and crocodiles don't have lips. And when he dissected lizards--another relative of dinosaurs--he found that they had only thin lips with no muscles attached. "There's no justifiable scientific reason to put lips on dinosaurs," says Witmer. The muscular cheek theory didn't hold up either: None of the modern dinosaur ancestors have cheeks, he notes. And animals that do have muscular cheeks--like bison and cows--come equipped with bony ridges and small knobs to support them. By contrast triceratops had only a smooth shelf of bone above the teeth.
Other paleontologists aren't just paying lip service to the potential new look for the King of Predators. A lipless T. rex would still have been a fearsome hunter, says Greg Erickson of Stanford University. "It's the teeth that matter."