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The T-Rex Had An Air Conditioner Built Into It's Head

  • picture t-rex roaring standing in forest

    As the only evidence left behind by dinosaurs are bones and fossils, it is difficult to analyse the musculatory system of the T-Rex. Much of the time, scientists look at animals that have descended from the dinosaur, and intuitively fill in the gaps of evolution to make an educated guess about how dinosaurs were built and behaved. 

    This is what researchers from the University of Missouri, Ohio University and the University of Florida did recently, resulting in a discovery that challenges a belief about the T-Rex that spanned for more than a century. 

    Previously, the two holes on each side of the T-Rex's head were thought to have been filled with muscles and assisted the giant with jaw movements. But new information suggests that this is not the case. 

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  • close up picture t-rex head

    Using thermal imaging (which shows heat as a readable map), researchers examined the heads of alligators - one of the few living animals that share common ancestors with the dinosaurs - and found that the holes in their heads are filled with blood vessels and actually act as temperature regulators. 

    They noticed that when alligators were cool, thermal imaging showed hot spots in the holes in their skull, indicating a rise in temperature. And later in the day, when the alligator was trying to cool down, the holes appeared dark or 'turned off'. This shows that alligators have a cross-current circulatory system - or an internal thermostat. And that means the T-Rex did too. 

  • picture t-rex standing among field grass

    Dinosaurs were reptiles (as alligators are) meaning that their body temperatures depended on their environment. Large animals also have a harder time cooling their body than smaller animals and must adopt techniques to lower their body temperatures. For example, elephants have large ears that can act like fans, and other large animals like hippos spend a lot of their time in the water, or are only active at night. 

    The discovery that the T-Rex had an internal 'air conditioner' brings us one step closer to understanding our extinct, gigantic friends. Cheers, science. 

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