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Neuroscience For Kids

Tyrannosaurus Rex: Dinosaur Nose King
November 21, 2008

When you think of a T. Rex, you might picture a large dinosaur with razor-sharp teeth and claws. The ability of these large animals to smell is probably not something you consider. However, T. Rex likely had an excellent sense of smell; better than most other dinosaurs.

To study the sense of smell in T. Rex, researchers placed the fossilized skulls of various dinosaurs into a CT scanner to measure the size of the olfactory bulbs. The total body size of the dinosaurs was estimated based on the length of a leg bone (the femur). Finally, the scientists compared the size of the olfactory bulbs to the brain size and body size of each dinosaur.

T. Rex was found to have a larger than expected olfactory bulb for a dinosaur of its size. Velociraptors also had large olfactory bulbs. These data suggest that predatory, meat-eating dinosaurs had a good sense of smell and used this sense more than other dinosaurs. Perhaps T. Rex could find food at night when lighting conditions were poor. Whether T. Rex was a scavenger or a predator is still not known, but its acute sense of smell appears to have given this giant dinosaur one more weapon to use in its battle for survival.

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