If you look at a fossilized skull of the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex you will immediately notice a few things. For starters, it's huge compared to the rest of his body, with almost caricature proportions. It's also full of massive, dagger-like teeth that can crush almost anything, and wait, what are these big holes for?
For years, the theory prevails as to why T. rex had these large gaps in the skull that are related to his complex jaw musculature. It was assumed that dense muscles took up this space and helped the animal through an even stronger bite. Now, a new study published in The Anatomical Record suggests that the holes had a completely different purpose and had to do with thermal management.
For the study, researchers from the University of Missouri, Ohio University and the University of Florida have studied one of the few "modern dinosaurs" that still exists today: the alligator. Using thermal imaging cameras, you can see how body temperature is regulated in the animal's skull, and find that gaps in the skulls of the alligators are great for regulating body heat.
Our thermal images showed large hot spots in these holes in the roof of their skull, indicating a temperature increase, "said Ken Vliet of the University of Florida in a statement. "Later in the day, when it is warmer, the holes appear dark, as if they were off to stay cool, consistent with previous evidence that alligators have a countercurrent circulatory system ̵