A team of artists and paleontologists spent nearly a year reimagining what they call the “most accurate Tyrannosaurus rex reconstruction ever.” Naked of feathers and rotund, it’s a little less terrifying than our childhood selves might remember.
In a blog post, the team writes that they started from the ground up to create a “generic” T. rex using different features from many specimens. This layered approach allowed them to depict what the average dino-Joe might have looked like as it tore through the Mesozoic.
To start, the team turned to Hell Creek, Montana – one of the most prominent dinosaur fossil records around. They based their foot reconstruction on footprints found encased in sediment spanning back as far as 65-million-years. Although the feet of the T. rex were probably similar in shape and style to that of modern birds of prey, the claw tips likely would have been worn down from walking on the ground. Their hand claws, on the other hand, would have been sharp (all the better to eat you with, my dear).
Turning to Scott Hartman, a leading expert in muscular restoration, the team reconstructed every muscle in what they call the “most in-depth anatomical recreation,” layer by layer. What’s different from the T. rex renditions of the past is the thickness of its arms; here, they’re depicted as thick and muscular.
“No one knows exactly what these arms were used for, or whether they may have been atrophied in life,” the team writes, noting they pushed for thicker muscles given their dataset.
Perhaps most contentious is the dinosaur's lack of feathers. The team turned to skin impressions taken from different parts of the body that looked similar to reticulae and small scutella seen on the feet of modern birds, indicating the T. rex probably had textured skin. In addition, they put keratin plates on the back of the neck in a choice they call “purely aesthetic” but likely given the characteristics of modern birds.