Local researcher helps find new species of dinosaur

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Lipless with flat scales, armor-like skin and horn, and a highly touch-sensitive snout are the characteristics that make this dinosaur unique.

In other animals, the trigeminal nerve has evolved to enable wildly different "sixth senses", such as the sensing of magnetic fields among birds, electroreception in the platypus bill, the sensitivity of cat whiskers and elephant tusks, and the ability of alligators to sense vibrations through water.

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The first fossilized remains of D. horneri were uncovered in 1992, but the new study, led by Carthage College paleontologist Thomas Carr, finally names the species, and places the animal firmly within the tyrannosaur family of dinosaurs, a group that includes well over a dozen species that lived during the Late Cretaceous period some 66 to 94 million years ago. Daspletosaurus horneri literally translates to "Horner's Frightful Lizard". They had feathers. They ran like birds.

Because the skull and jaws of D. horneri were so well preserved, the team was able to study in detail its coarse, complex textures anddetermine what sorts of soft tissue once covered its face, they report online today in Scientific Reports.

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"In some ways, the facial components of the trigeminal nerve of these dinosaurs mirrors that of humans", said study author Jayc Sedlmayr, an anatomist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre. They have a shared concestor; that's your most recent, common ancestor. The beasts had hypersensitive snouts protected by flat scales. That snout is particularly interesting because of the trigeminal nerve. Still, Carr and his colleagues believe that other types of crocodile behavior offer clues about how D. horneri used its sensitive scales.

As in crocodylians, female tyrannosaurids would have relied upon ISOs on the snout for detecting the optimal temperature of a nest site, and for maintaining nest temperature and the nest materials; also, ISOs would have aided adult tyrannosaurids in harmlessly picking up eggs and nestlings and, in courtship, tyrannosaurids might have rubbed their sensitive faces together as a vital part of pre-copulatory play.
It's "ironic that the life appearance of the tyrannosaur face has not been rigorously studied".

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Basically, we're talking about a giant, crocodile-faced chicken at this point. Just try to get that image out of your mind.

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