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Re: T. rex Sense of Smell

At 10:55 PM 2/20/97 GMT, John Cys wrote:
>The one thing that really bothered me in JP was the T. rex being directly in
>front of Grant and the kids and not smelling them.  According to Horner &
>Lessem in their book _The Complete T. Rex_, the structure of the nasal
>portion of the skull suggests a moderate to good sense of smell.  Some
>paleontologists (notably Bakker, I believe) suggest a very poor sense of
>smell.  Even with a very poor sense of smell, I find it difficult to believe
>T. rex, or any other vertebrate for that matter, would fail to smell a
>human-sized organism directly in front of them at a very short distance with
>nothing but air in between them. What is the latest consensus on T. rex's
>sense of smell?

[And people wonder why professionals are sometimes upset with "Jurassic
Park"?  Here we have an educated person who has been confused about
scientific thinking concerning dinosaurs in part because that movie shows a
T. rex incapable of smelling a human (who is at least sweating, and almost
certainly scared feces-less!) a mere couple of centimeters from its nose.]

The olfactory lobes of the brain of T. rex seem to be well developed:
perhaps not demonstrably more than in other theropods, but well developed.
I don't think that Bakker has every said that T. rex had a poor sense of
smell (I can't recall that, at least), but I think he might argue (as most
of us would) that tyrannosaurids, as members of the reptile/bird clade,
would have had an excellent sense of vision.  Many members of the Sauropsida
(or Reptilia, take your pick) seem to rely primarily on vision more than
scent in prey detection (notable exception: snakes, varanids, and related

Jim Farlow, it should be noted, has pointed out that because tyrannosaurids
(and other large theropods) were so tall, their field of vision (and their
field of scenting) would be quite large compared to forms built low to the

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661

"To trace that life in its manifold changes through past ages to the present
is a ... difficult task, but one from which modern science does not shrink.
In this wide field, every earnest effort will meet with some degree of
success; every year will add new and important facts; and every generation
will bring to light some law, in accordance with which ancient life has been
changed into life as we see it around us to-day."
        --O.C. Marsh, Vice Presidential Address, AAAS, August 30, 1877