T-Rex missing link: a horse-sized predator with super hearing

The "missing link" between the smallest T-Rex ancestors and the larger Tyrannosaurs was discovered in the Kyzylkum Desert in Uzbekistan more than a decade ago. Researchers recently studied the fossils and have published the results of their study, saying the creature — which has been dubbed Timurlengia euotica — was about the size of a modern horse and holds signs about how such a small species evolved into the massive Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Most people are familiar with the T-Rex, a big hulking beast that dominated the then-world and has captured the public imagination. Lesser known are the small ancestors that lived about 170 million years ago, slowing evolving over time to create the massive tyrannosaur. The lack of a missing link between the earliest ancestors and last of the tyrannosaurs left scientists with a lot of guesses and not much else.

T-Rex study shows how terrifying dinosaurs' jaw truly was

That changed starting in 1997 when the first Timurlengia euotica bones were found — more fossils from the species were uncovered in the region up through 2006, eventually being pegged as the aforementioned missing link.

An analysis of the fossils found that, among other things, this intermediary species had a very good sense of hearing, with the inner ear structure being described as atypically complex. This heightened sense of hearing meant the dinosaur — about the size of a horse — was a keen predator. Even more important, though, is that the same inner ear structure is seen in the larger Tyrannosaurus Rex, indicating one area where the two are very similar.

According to paleontologist Stephen Brusatte, the study's lead:

The brain and ears of Timurlengia look like miniature versions of the same structures in T. rex. It may be that the earlier evolution of these features gave tyrannosaurs the perfect toolkit that came in handy when the opportunity presented itself for them to rise to the top of the food chain.

SOURCE: Science Mag