Washington, November 5 (ANI): With the help of an ultramodern imaging technique, a team of scientists has recognized a long forgotten fossil skull in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London, as belonging to the oldest known relative of the Tyrannosauridae.
The specimen, named Proceratosaurus, has been identified as the oldest known relative of the Tyrannosauridae, by a team of researchers led by Dr. Oliver Rauhut from LMU Munich and Dr. Angela Milner from the Natural History Museum London.
Among the dinosaur specimen housed in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London is an almost complete skull that was found in the West of England about 100 years ago.
The fossil was initially misclassified, but was later recognized as representing an otherwise unknown genus, which was named Proceratosaurus.
The skull has only recently been subject to detailed study by a team led by Dr. Oliver Rauhut
This skull, which had been overlooked for so long, turns out to be a spectacular find.
Proceratosaurus is the earliest known ancestor of the family Tyrannosauridae (named after its most famous representative Tyrannosaurus rex).
Proceratosaurus and T. rex were both bipedal carnivores and each had a massive body, short and stubby forelimbs, a powerful tail, and sharp teeth set in a bulky skull.
The best-known members of the family, T. rex, lived during the late cretaceous period, although smaller species are known from the earlier Jurassic era.
Little is known about the origins and later evolution of this important group of dinosaurs. Proceratosaurus could now cast much needed light on the process.
"It is quite astonishing that this fossil has received so little attention, since it is one of the best preserved dinosaur skulls in Europe," said Rauhut.
The investigations uncovered a wide range of features in the cranial cavity, teeth and jaws that Proceratosaurus shares with the huge T. rex, despite the fact that the Proceratosaurus skull is about 100 million years older and much smaller.
The Proceratosaurus cranium was about five times less massive than that of its mighty relative, and the intact animal appears to have weighed only about 40 kg.
Mature specimens of Tyrannosaurus, in contrast, weighed in at up to eight tons.
Because the Proceratosaurus skull already displays characteristics that are typical of its later descendants, the powerful jaw with its slicing teeth was probably the animal's most important weapon.
"It is likely that this hunting strategy developed first," said Rauhut. (ANI)