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Redesigning a Tyrant: Meet the NEW Tyrannosaurus rex

Note: I know I promised to break down the more complex science behind the T. rex infographic in this post, but as I started putting it all down it became clear it was not going to all fit in this post alongside everything else. I’ll be creating an entire post unto it’s own at some point on this topic. Now I know what Darren Naish feels like when he mentions having this problem at Tetzoo! – Tom Parker, Saurian Research Lead & World Designer.

Redesigning a Tyrant
I’d like begin by saying this is all RJ’s fault. If it weren’t for his constant efforts to get us to revisit our rex design we wouldn’t be here today showing off this fantastic new model. While we were very fond of the previous rex concept and it proved to be an effective design for an ambush predator, there were a number of issues with the model that encouraged us to listen to RJ’s incessant whining.

Cryengine rig: The previous rex design was so old it was still rigged to work in Cryengine, which we stopped using all the way back in 2013. Although the model worked in Unity, the steps necessary to get it working initially in Cryengine severely limited our animator Bryan’s ability to set up ragdolls and other basic functions. We desperately needed a new rig.

More Data: In the more than 2 years since the first rex was revealed, we’ve come across new data that improved our understanding of Tyrannosaurus anatomy (more on this a bit later). We planned on correcting and updating these discrepancies, but once we started running into problems with the Cryengine rig we realized that an entire new model was probably in order. Our own pet researcher, Tom, has also been doing a lot of his own work on the structure and distribution of dinosaur integument (skin coverings) which required some changes to be made to the layout on our rex. The simplistic version of this can be seen on our infographic, and a more detailed blogpost on this subect will eventually follow.

Improved Skills: Back in 2013 Jake was not actually as good as we thought he was. He is a lot better now after rigorous training and daily beatings, as the Acheroraptor and the rex show. Bryan also picked up several new techniques that he was interested in implementing that were stymied by, you guessed it, the Cryengine rig.

RJ & Chris: RJ Palmer and Chris Masna both joined the team after the design process of the prior rex concept. Now that we were faced with the prospect of an entirely new sculpt and rig, it was only natural to incorporate their input and suggestions to improve the entire design.

And you can see the result of their collaboration below

Infographic describing the science behind the appearance of our Tyrannosaurus rex.


Tyrannosaur footprints

Footprints of a large tyrannosaur illustrating sharply tapering toes and a strongly divergent digit IV. Taken from McCrea RT, Buckley LG, Farlow JO, Lockley MG, Currie PJ, Matthews NA, et al. (2014) A ‘Terror of Tyrannosaurs’: The First Trackways of Tyrannosaurids and Evidence of Gregariousness and Pathology in Tyrannosauridae. PLoS ONE 9(7): e103613. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.010361

Other updates

Feet: T. rex now has sexy new feet based on newly discovered fossil trackways of a closely related tyrannosaurid from Canada. Among the changes from the old model are a revised arrangement for tarsal scutes and tapering toes that have significantly more padding to them. The innermost digit also possesses a slightly enlarged claw, hinting that incipient “killing claws” were likely ancestral to all of Coelurosauria (Fowler et al. 2011). Additionally, the outermost toe is now more noticeably splayed from the middle and inner toe, further hinting at a partially raptorial ancestral condition.

Girth: While the old rex was plenty robust, as Scott Hartman illustrates below, Tyrannosaurus rex is really built like a barrel. As this graphic was released well over a year after we had completed the old model, we didn’t have a chance to incorporate it into the design the first time around. A comparison will also find the new sculpt is significantly beefier than the old one, as Jake has taken better account of body fat and other soft tissues.

Reference Specimen: As some of you have noticed and as we mentioned in the stream, our new rex is based off of the “Stan” specimen (BHI 3033), rather than the “Sue” specimen (FMNH PR2081) as the original was. We’ve made this shift for a couple reasons. The old rex is based off of a now inaccurate skeletal from Scott Hartman, Sue is actually more robust and proportionately short legged than our original model was. We also selected Stan for his smaller size. Stan is a relatively small, young adult tyrannosaur, so basing our model on it allows us ‘room to grow’ into a large adult. One of the primary reasons we’ve based the new rex on Stan though is his stratigraphic age; Stan was found within the upper third of the Hell Creek Formation, about 16m below the K/Pg boundary (Johnson & Hartman volume 2001). Sue is from the lower portion of the Hell Creek Formation, making it potentially up to a million years older than Stan and Saurian’s setting. Other T. rex specimens from the same position in the formation as Stan are MOR 555 (The Wankel or ‘Devil’ rex) MOR 980 (Peck’s rex) and potentially AMNH 5027.  All of these specimens appear to be relatively gracile compared to other specimens of Tyrannosaurus, which is frequently used to suggest that they are male. However, once again GET AWAY TRIKE has done us a huge favor by noting that most of the robust individuals of T. rex that we have stratigraphic data for appear to be from the lower portion of the Hell Creek Formation. This suggests that instead of different sexes, the robust and gracile ‘morphs’ of Tyrannosaurus might instead represent change in form over the course of Hell Creek time, similar to the transition from Triceratops horridus to Triceratops prorsus.

 


We’ve also started utilizing Root Motion to blend together the model’s animations, and we’re very excited by our early results.

After several months of hard work to bring all of this research and artistic collaboration together into one model, we’re extremely happy with the result, and its gratifying to see all the positive comments our followers, other artists and even paleontologists have shared with us. Thank you for supporting us, and we look forward to showing you more updates like this in the near future!

References
– Fowler et al. 2011, The Predatory Ecology of Deinonychus and the Origin of Flapping in Birds, PLOS One.
– Johnson 2002, Megaflora of the Hell Creek and lower Fort Union Formations in the western Dakotas: Vegetational response to climate change, the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event, and rapid marine transgression, Geological Society of America Special Paper 361, pp. 341

32 Comments
  • jelani on October 17, 2016

    could you get at least make a backup scaly t rex skin just because because i have heard from a famous paleontologist george blasing that believes that a tyrannosaurus was scaly.

    • AllosaurAlex on December 30, 2016

      No. They are basing all their on the most up to date information. Scaly Rex is impossible.

  • Maciej Ziegler on September 4, 2016

    Nick Turinetti wrote: “once again GET AWAY TRIKE has done us a huge favor by noting that most of the robust individuals of T. rex that we have stratigraphic data for appear to be from the lower portion of the Hell Creek Formation. This suggests that instead of different sexes, the robust and gracile ‘morphs’ of Tyrannosaurus might instead represent change in form over the course of Hell Creek time, similar to the transition from Triceratops horridus to Triceratops prorsus.”

    As it was written in cited post (http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/rboz_05/35932260.html), the hypothesis of stratigraphically separated robust and gracile Tyrannosaurus morphs was taken from sobebody else. It was me. I made research on this issue in 2012 http://www.encyklopedia.dinozaury.com/index.php?title=Tyrannosaurus&oldid=9144#Dymorfizm_p.C5.82ciowy
    then without mention of specimens, which I added in 2013: http://www.encyklopedia.dinozaury.com/index.php?title=Tyrannosaurus&action=historysubmit&diff=10675&oldid=10106

    I condacted D. Fowler and G.S. Paul about it in 2012, and the latter says a paper is on preparation by him and others.

    As it seems that Denversaurus will be in game, I suggest looking at that paper:
    Carpenter, K., & Breithaupt, B. (1986). Latest Cretaceous occurrence of nodosaurid ankylosaurs (Dinosauria, Ornithischia) in Western North America and the gradual extinction of the dinosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 6(3), 251-257.

    Maybe there are more recent findings documenting presence of nodosaurids in upper Hell Creek, but I do not know them.

    • Nick Turinetti on September 6, 2016

      Thanks for pointing out the hypothesis of stratigraphic separation of robust and gracile Tyrannosaurus is from your work. We apologize for not crediting you. As far as nodosaurids being present in the upper Hell Creek formation, DePalma reports ankylosaur scutes from Bone Butte in his thesis, a site that most likely is within the upper 20m of the Hell Creek Formation.

      • Maciej Ziegler on September 6, 2016

        No problem.
        Edmontonia is listed (as ankylosaurid) on p. 69 and 203. No description or illustration. If You look at whole Appendix B3, You should be cautious, as it looks that there are too many taxa (Aublysodon mirandus!). But this is Your choice to base this game on such scrappy information.

  • irondune on April 30, 2016

    I really like this model and I don’t understand why my friend laughed when he saw it.
    He thinks it looks like a glorified chicken, but to me this is by far the most awesome representation of any dinosaur.

    • Joshua Lowrie on July 26, 2016

      It doesn’t even look like a chicken

  • Sam Broadbent on April 25, 2016

    Looks great! I enjoy the amount of research put in; it will be greatly appreciated by fans and dinosaur enthusiasts. I do have one question though; what’s up with the lips? You see, as far as I know, the evidence suggests a lack of lips. First of all, the texture on the lower mantible is rough. In animals with lips that area of the bone is smooth from constant contact with lips, and the number of fossae is greatly diminished, whereas in animals without lips, there is a high number of fossae, and the texture is rough (crocodilians are a prime example of this). Tyrannosaurus has a high number of fossae and rough bone texture on the lower jaw, suggesting no lips. Second, unlike our teeth, theropod teeth pass by each other, and do not generally collide, and they therefor would pierce the lower lips, or have to fit into special sockets evolved to contain the teeth in the lower lip, which is a very uncommon feature for which we have no evidence for in any theropod. Not to mention almost any slight variation in tooth arrangement and order in Tyrannosaurus teeth would mean they could not longer fit into the fleshy sockets, which would cause the animal to bite its lip. In theropod skulls, the teeth are often not perfect; especially as they’d be repeatedly replaced, which could cause some slight mishaps in the tooth arrangement, lowering the likelihood of those teeth fitting inside the lip pouches. On a last note, as dinosaurs appear to have lacked facial muscles, when hunting Tyrannosaurus would not have been able to pull its lips back, and may end up biting into its lips while trying to bite prey. This makes lips very unlikely in theropods. Thank you for hearing out my rant. Much of this information was attained through the work of Tracy Lee Ford. If you’d like to talk to her directly (as she is the expert, not I) her email is dino.hunter@cox.net. Keep up the good work!

    • Sam Broadbent on April 25, 2016

      Come to think about it, in my earlier comment I said it was possible Tyrannosaurus bit its lips when hunting as it could not pull them back, however, lizards, whom lack falcial muscles, can bite fine without biting their lips (even monitors, whom have rather large teeth and tackle large prey). Therefor, my last piece of “evidence” for lipless Tyrannosaurs should not be taken seriously. My bad.

      • TheRaptorMovies on June 21, 2016

        Yes, but if you think about it, if Tyrannosaurus had “Lips” His Lips would cover up 2/3 of his teeth, and if it attacked, he would barely have any teeth to use when attacking, 1/3 teeth 2/3 lips, even if its Lips were flexible, when it would bite with force, it would still not expose any more percentage of its teeth, and the smaller teeth would not be exposed at all! It now the Tyrannosaurus mouth, looks like a dog’s mouth, to be honest.

    • Nick Turinetti on April 26, 2016

      Tracy Ford is a man.

      • Sam Broadbent on April 26, 2016

        My apologies Mr. Ford, if you read this.

        • Sam Broadbent on May 26, 2016

          My apologies, really, it was an honest mistake. I would like to stress this point a little more, then I will get out of your hair. Tooth decay may be a reason to argue for lips, however one should note that some estimate that a tooth would generally stay in the animal’s mouth no more than 6 months. This would make any tooth decay somewhat irrelevant. Also, if we look at the teeth of Stan, if it had lips, some of its teeth would pierce through the bottom of the lip. They surpass the lower edge of the bottom mandible, after all. In any case, congratulations of the kickstarter! 60,000 in two days, incredible! Seriously, congratulations, I know this must be very thrilling for you, I know it is for me!

          • Tomozaurus on May 26, 2016

            We can tell you for a fact that none of Stan’s teeth will peirce his lips because our rex model is Stan and his teeth fit just fine 🙂

          • Sam Broadbent on May 27, 2016

            I was going to argue that the fossils suggest some of Stan’s teeth may have surpassed the bottom of the lower mandible, however as I dug a little deeper I realized how unusually unproportional Stan’s skull actually was. I also found some articles I had missed before arguing against Ford’s points. Both sides are convincing, and thus I think I may have been somewhat ignorant and one-sided in my previous comments. After all, you are the ones who spoke with actual paleontologists not I. In any case, I really enjoy your accuracy in this project. This is literally the most exiting thing in my life right now (isn’t that sad?). Congratulations, again, for the amazing success on the Kickstarter, and hopefully this will be very successful as a game and an educational tool!

  • Thiago Chagas on March 25, 2016

    I took a look at the 3D model and I realized some interesting things:
    1- the coat of feathers is not as thick as I though it was. Now I doubt this T. rex is overheating.
    2- the lips are simply to short. It is true that the teeth of the upper jaw are shorter (and thinner) than they should, but they are still to long for the lips! If you take a closer look at the model you will see that the lips are not so long and that even those small teeth would pierce trough the tissue that attaches the lip to the gum.
    But you can also see that the snout is thinner than it should.

    • Joshua Lowrie on July 26, 2016

      Ostriches have coats that actually keep them cool. The T.rex is more than likely not overheating

    • Joshua Lowrie on July 26, 2016

      Ostriches have feather coats that actually keep them cool. The T.res probably has similar feathers. so it’s more than likely not overheating.

  • mw on November 3, 2015

    I really like it

  • LostGosling on September 16, 2015

    POOR JAKE.
    But I must say that the beatings have paid off;
    I really liked the last Rex, but this one truly takes the cake. B]

    Sexy new feet. Awesome new sculpt. And even though his colors got muted down to something a little less showy, he’s definitely become a stealthier beast as a result. I especially love what you’ve done with the motion so far though. You can really tell that he’s got some momentum now. OuO

  • hunter1324 on September 6, 2015

    By the way is there any deffinitive old individual of “T. X” ?

    As far as I can see Bucky was a subadult while Stan and Wankel were adults but not very old.

  • Katstica on September 6, 2015

    Looks amazing! However, from a totally cosmetic stand point, the face looks a lot cuter than it does scary. It looks like it’s smiling and has very soft eyes, so it doesn’t really inspire fear. But maybe I’ll feel different when it’s trying to eat me.

    • Rog on September 28, 2015

      Crocks smile too… Don’t be fooled! 🙂

      • Katstica on February 23, 2016

        At least crocs have a toothy smile. This guy has got lips covering the pearly whites (which is fine). Just saying, it’s more cute than scary imo.

        • Renan on December 24, 2016

          Well, most animals are actually cute, from birds to lizards and mammals, most of them are actually beautiful.

          • nonavian on January 5, 2017

            Damn ^ That’s very true. I was going to say, if you looked at a still image of a grizzly bear, it too would attract your eyes. That’s just how many animals are to us, each one formed differently and with long snouts, snort beaks, and features that make so many different creatures look unique and beautiful.
            But it does go without saying that while a grizzly bear (or some snakes, in my slightly biased opinion) may attract your gaze with its soft-looking pelt and brown eyes, it’s a much different experience when you’re running for your life from an angry bear in the woods at night. All about perspective. 😉

  • hunter1324 on September 4, 2015

    “This suggests that instead of different sexes, the robust and gracile ‘morphs’ of Tyrannosaurus might instead represent change in form over the course of Hell Creek time, similar to the transition from Triceratops horridus to Triceratops prorsus.”

    Now, THAT is interesting. It is usually stated that there was very important shift in the composition of the flora community of Laramidia in the Late Maastritchian, with Angiosperms becaming a lot more prevalent than ever before, makes me wonder if this could be behind the eventual changes that both Triceratops and now Tyrannosaurus seem to have endured throught two million years of evolution in an ever changing envioriment.

    • Tomozaurus on September 4, 2015

      You are right, there was a large shift in the floral community throughout the course of the Maastrichtian that would have applied great selective pressures on the fauna that inhabited the continent. I have no doubt that this would have driven some of the factors evolved in these animals.

      Tom Parker,
      Urvogel Games

      • TheCrooks on October 22, 2015

        Does this mean there should be two species of Tyrannosaurus.

        • Nick Turinetti on October 22, 2015

          Possibly! We need better information on where existing specimens have been found, more specimens in general, and probably a comparative study of a significant number of individual specimens of T. rex. For now though, there is no significant evidence suggesting there is more than one species of Tyrannosaurus rex in the Hell Creek formation.

          • TheCrooks on October 28, 2015

            Cool!

    • Thiago Chagas on June 21, 2016

      I have heard that Daspletosaurus was more robust than T. rex (or at least bulkier than more gracile T. rexes as Sue and AMNH 5434 appear to be very similar in terms of how bulky they are), and if you take a look at actual skeletons you will see that daspletosaurus specimens show proportionally shorter legs than “younger” T. rexes. This may be another evidence of daspletosaurus being a direct ancestor of T. rex.

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