Why the T. Rex’s face is like Santa Claus

Image copyright Reuters Image caption This T. Rex skull was found in 1950

Why, you might wonder, does this skull boast a Christmas sweater, a coat of arms, and snowflake eyes?

Actually, it’s more than that, as DNA analysis at Oxford University shows.

It’s a copy of the original fibreglass T. Rex skull found in the Aztecs’ El Arco fossil site in Mexico in 1925.

Only one piece of human remains from the site have ever been analysed, but this was not one of them. This is the original (well, you know… fibreglass).

Experts think that the original made its way to the United States by accident. And American museums – big and small – went a little bonkers.

One ran a contest for a new T. Rex skull – which won. In 1931, the winner gave the 2.5m (8ft) fibreglass replica as a Christmas gift to the Stanford Museum. It became popular, it grew fragile, it was taken out of the museum every summer – and schoolchildren took it home.

So over time, the fibreglass T. Rex’s legacy even followed it.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption T. Rex is the name given to this particular species of dinosaur in Spain

The fibreglass T. Rex has four sets of eyes

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption One set of eyes has a very special characteristic

It’s got two sets of teeth

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Not like those you see a lot in videos of the T. Rex

It’s got one set of hands

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption After T. Rex died, its long bones were ground down to make charcoal

It’s got tiny palm joints and a humerus

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A humerus or “long musket handle” is among the few joints on a true tyrannosaur.

It’s got two sets of hands

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Long musket handles also being among the few features that people can differentiate between humans and other animals from the fossil record.

It’s got two sets of hands

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Exactly like an early human

Its tail bone is about 8cm long

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Its tail bone is usually named like humans, with a kind of a tail. But with a longer tail bone.

What did scientists learn?

Geneticists have been trying to unpick the exact relationship between modern humans and ancient societies since Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species.

There are certain markers found in the mitochondrial DNA of the modern human that are similar to the mitochondrial DNA in the ancient humans of Mesopotamia.

The relationship between humans and T. Rex is largely the result of the primordial Eocene and early Pleistocene differences in the distribution of the fossil record.

The results of this study are a confirmation of a little-known evolutionary trend that has been observed in humans (as well as dinosaurs) ever since they first colonised the Earth.

The results will help future scientists understand not only how the human and T. Rex species are related, but what other kind of ancient cave-dwelling creatures once lived within the same ecosystems and appeared at the same time.

The research was published in the journal Biology Letters.

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