Tyrannosaurs' face skin similar to crocodiles, reveals study

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New York : The face of tyrannosaurs was covered in a scaly protective layer with a high degree of tactile sensitivity, similar to crocodiles, suggests new research.

The findings are based on an analysis of fossils of a new species of the tyrannosaur dinosaur.

After the fossils were pulled out of the muddy banks of a river in Montana, US, the team was able to analyse the texture of the facial bones of the new species.

"Being a tyrannosaur, they had really small arms. They wouldn't be able to interact with their environment with their hands the way mammals do -- find food, build nests, tend to eggs and young," said one of the researchers Jason Moore, Professor at Honors College, The University of New Mexico in the US.

"The discovery and analysis of the tyrannosaur shows that the dinosaur had a developed face sensitivity similar to the sensitivity in our finger tips, suggesting it could use its snout for all those complex ecological interactions, similar to the way crocodiles do today," Moore said.

The researcher named the new species of the tyrannosaur clan: Daspletosaurus horneri - "Horner's Frightful Lizard."

In addition to adding a new species to the tyrannosaur family tree, the team's research provides new information about the mode of evolution and life appearance of tyrannosaurs, specifically the face.

This latest study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found evidence for a rare, non-branching type of evolution in tyrannosaurs and that they had scaly, lipless faces and a highly touch-sensitive snout.

"Daspletosaurus horneri was the youngest, and last, of its lineage that lived after its closest relative, D. torosus, which is found in Alberta, Canada," said lead researcher Thomas Carr of Carthage College in Wisconsin.

"The geographic proximity of these species and their sequential occurrence suggests that they represent a single lineage where D. torosus has evolved into D. horneri," Carr said.