Tyrannosaurus Rex Reimagined In "Most Accurate" Reconstruction Ever


Madison Dapcevich

Staff Writer

clockOct 16 2018, 00:14 UTC

The majority of the skeleton was designed to be generic and represent the average T. rex. Saurian

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.


To color the dinosaur, the team then turned to crocodilians and Komodo dragons for their inspired palette. In the past, dinosaurs have been depicted as brightly colored based on small birds and lizards of today – something they say is unlikely given these animals are from “very different environmental niches.”

“A naturalistic pattern that would be applicable to a tyrant, but not overly dulled-down and boring,” they wrote.

A last point of interest is the dinosaur’s mouth – but not because of its terrifying teeth. Extra-oral tissue was incorporated into the jawline to “seal” the teeth when the mouth is closed. This is based on holes found in the dinosaur’s bones that would have been used to supply nutrients to the tissue.

Though the work is not published in a peer-reviewed study, paleoartist RJ Palmer analyzed more than 20 published papers and consulted several dinosaur experts to reconstruct the giant. The work was commissioned by Saurian and will be on exhibit at the Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.


[H/T: Science Alert


Tyrannosaurus with keratin sheath on the orbital horns, padded scales on the nasals, large ornamental scales on the maxilla, and immobile extra-oral tissue. Saurian

Tyrannosaur footprint from the Hell Creek formation. Saurian


[H/T: Science Alert


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