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Osteology of Tyrannosaurus rex: Insights from a Nearly Complete Skeleton and High-Resolution Computed Tomographic Analysis of the Skull

Christopher A. Brochu
Memoir (Society of Vertebrate Paleontology)
Vol. 7, Osteology of Tyrannosaurus rex: Insights from a Nearly Complete Skeleton and High-Resolution Computed Tomographic Analysis of the Skull (Jan. 14, 2003), pp. 1-138
DOI: 10.2307/3889334
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3889334
Page Count: 138
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Osteology of Tyrannosaurus rex: Insights from a Nearly Complete Skeleton and High-Resolution Computed Tomographic Analysis of the Skull
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Abstract

A detailed osteological description of Tyrannosaurus rex Osborn, 1905 is presented, based primarily on the most complete specimen yet collected of this taxon (FMNH PR2081, popularly known as "Sue") but also including observations from other specimens. Skull morphology of FMNH PR2081 is largely congruent with that described for previous specimens, but new details are added. Palatal morphology of FMNH PR2081 differs slightly from that of previously-described specimens-the internal choanae are slightly larger relative to skull size, and the anterior expansion of the fused vomers is elongate. Posteriorly, the vomers pass medially for nearly the entire length of the pterygoids. High-resolution x-ray computed tomographic (CT) analysis of the skull reveals internal details not previously observed. Complex recess systems can be traced in the jugal, lacrymal, ectopterygoid, quadrate, exoccipital, supraoccipital, prootic, and basioccipital. The exoccipital recess was perforated by a small foramen on the posterodorsal surface of the paroccipital process, and may have communicated with pneumatic chambers in the atlas-axis complex. The maxillary antra were bound medially by a thin bony wall; traces of these walls in earlier CT studies of tyrannosaurid skulls may have led to the impression that these animals had bony maxillonasal turbinates. A digital endocast was constructed from these images, confirming many previous observations based on natural endocasts, but also yielding new details, such as the presence of a large and presumably pneumatic sinus in the prootic adjacent to the pathway for the maxillary-mandibular branches of the trigeminal nerve. The olfactory bulbs were very large. The postcranium is also largely congruent with previously published descriptions. The precaudal vertebral column was heavily pneumatized, with pneumatopores penetrating the centra and neural arches of all presacral vertebrae, the cervical ribs, and the anteriormost four sacral centra. Unusual structures are tentatively identified as a proatlas arch and a rib on the last presacral vertebrae, structures previously thought absent from tyrannosaurids. The "missing chevron" partially responsible for claims that FMNH PR2081 is female was actually present. The gastralia are extensively fused anteriorly, and the morphology of the anteriormost gastral segments closely resembles the only published account of a tyrannosaurid sternum. This raises several possibilities, including the complete absence of a bony sternum in tyrannosaurids. The appendicular skeleton is congruent with those of other tyrannosaurids. A slender rodlike bone may represent a partial furcula, but this is not certain. The scapulocoracoids would probably not have met at the midline, but would nonetheless have closely approached each other in articulation. Several abnormalities in the skeleton have attracted popular attention. There is no defensible evidence for bite trauma on the skull, but the rib cage does show evidence for healed fractures. Lesions on the right scapulocoracoid and humerus coincide with fractured ribs on the right cervical-dorsal transition and may indicate a single trauma to the right side of the body. The left fibula is pathological, but may not have been fractured. Two fused tail vertebrae may preserve natural molds of the tail muscles.

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