In the sultry swamps of Montana 75 million years ago, horny tyrannosaurs developed dinosaur foreplay. In paleontological research announced Thursday, scientists revealed that male and female tyrannosaurs got ready to get it on by getting real cozy with each other. That’s right — with love bites that could crush an elephant and a penchant for post-coital face-snuggling, tyrannosaurs were essentially the Late Cretaceous version of “get you a man who can do both.”

In the journal Scientific Reports, the team of American researchers explain that they made this sexual revelation after discovering a new type of tyrannosaur called Daspletosaurus horneri. These dinosaurs lived before the T. Rex and were about three-quarters of its size. A rare form of evolution called anagenesis — which is when a species forms without branching into a new line of evolutionary descent — is thought to have led to their existence. Analyzing the newfound fossilized skulls, the researchers realized something unexpected about the species: These dinos had highly sensitive faces, which they likely rubbed together “as a vital part of pre-copulatory play.”

Using information taken from lab-based comparative anatomical studies, bird and crocodile dissections, and traces of facial nerves and arteries on the D. horneri skulls, the scientists determined that they had not only discovered a new species but also one equipped with large flat facial scales and a “highly touch-sensitive snout.*

story continues below
Skeleton casts of Tyrannosaurus mounted in a mating position at the Jurassic Museum of Asturias.
Skeleton casts of Tyrannosaurus mounted in a mating position at the Jurassic Museum of Asturias.

They believe that this scaled snout was covered with nerve openings, called foramina, which, when rubbed, triggered the tingling of the trigeminal nerve. This cranial nerve, which transmits sensations from the face to the brain, is also found in humans and is what scientists believe allows our facial muscles to coordinate emotional information. Today, when crocodiles and alligators rub their bumpy faces and body together pre-bone, their touching trigeminal nerves ignite the stimulation they need to mate.

“Our findings of a complex sensory web is especially interesting because it is derived from the trigeminal nerve, which has an extraordinary evolutionary history of developing into wildly different ‘sixth senses’ in different vertebrates,” said LSU Health Sciences Center anatomist and co-author Jayc Sedlmayr, Ph.D., in a statement.

While this foreplay discovery was yielded from data taken from the D. horneri, the scientists believe this finding can be applied to all tyrannosauruses and likely indicates the dinosaurs not only had “super-sensitive” skin but were super-sensitive lovers.

Photos via Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay/Wikimedia Commons