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霸王龍曾是“中等個”

文章來源:中國科學報   發布時間:2019-05-10  【字號:     】  

  現在,人們對霸王龍的祖先可能什么樣子有了更好的了解。研究人員發現了一個霸王龍新物種的兩塊化石。其被稱為Suskityrannus hazelae,生活在約9000萬年前,早于暴龍科進化成像霸王龍一樣的龐然大物。

  兩塊化石表明,霸王龍在體型很小時就已發育出很多特有的特征,比如肌肉發達的頭骨、寬大的嘴巴和能吸收震動的腳。“Suskityrannus讓我們得以一窺暴龍在接管地球之前的進化過程。”美國弗吉尼亞理工大學古生物學家Sterling Nesbitt說。

  霸王龍是地球上最大的捕食者之一,可能也是所有恐龍中最著名的物種。Nesbitt表示,很多人沒有意識到,像霸王龍這樣的巨型暴龍在地球上的統治時間驚人地短——它們只在恐龍滅絕前的1500萬年左右開始進化。

  古生物學家發現,在這些“巨人”出現之前的1.5億年,地球上早就生活著小型暴龍。但由于化石記錄的缺失,在這些巨獸進化之前發生了什么一直是個謎。

  S. hazelae填補了這一空白。1997年,研究人員在新墨西哥州發現了這種恐龍的第一具非常不完整的骨架。1998年,當Nesbitt還在上高中時,科學家又發現了第二塊更完整的化石。如今,Nesbitt和同事終于發表論文來描述這一發現。

  該團隊估測,第二只恐龍的臀部高1米、身長3米,體重在20~40公斤。骨頭顯示,它死時還是一只幼龍,所以該物種的體型可能更大,但肯定沒有霸王龍那么大。

  為何在如今的北美和亞洲游蕩的暴龍在成為龐然大物之前的1.5億年里一直保持中等體型,原因尚不清楚。但其他種類的恐龍,如鴨嘴恐龍和角龍,后來同樣擁有更大的體型,因此也許暴龍是在和它們的獵物同步進化。相關成果日前發表于《自然—生態與進化》雜志。




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