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The Tyrant Lizard King, Queen and Emperor: Multiple Lines of Morphological and Stratigraphic Evidence Support Subtle Evolution and Probable Speciation Within the North American Genus Tyrannosaurus

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Abstract

All skeletal specimens of the North American dinosaur Tyrannosaurus and a number of trace fossils have been attributed to the single species: T. rex. Although an unusual degree of variation in skeletal robustness among specimens and variability in anterior dentary tooth form have been noted, the possibility of sibling species within the genus Tyrannosaurus has never been tested in depth in both anatomical and stratigraphic terms. New analysis, based on a dataset of over three dozen specimens, finds that Tyrannosaurus specimens exhibit such a remarkable degree of proportional variations, distributed at different stratigraphic levels, that the pattern favors multiple species at least partly separated by time; ontogenetic and sexual causes being less consistent with the data. Variation in dentary incisiform counts correlate with skeletal robusticity and also appear to change over time. Based on the current evidence, three morphotypes are demonstrated, and two additional species of Tyrannosaurus are diagnosed and named. One robust species with two small incisors in each dentary appears to have been present initially, followed by two contemporaneous species (one robust and another gracile) both of which had one small incisor in each dentary, suggesting both anagenesis and cladogenesis occurred. The geological/geographic forces underlying the evolution of multiple Tyrannosaurus species are examined. A discussion of the issues involving the recognition and designation of multiple morphotypes/species within dinosaur genera is included.

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Acknowledgements

Our thanks go to Philip Currie, Peter Larson, Ralph Molnar, Kenneth Carpenter, Asier Larramendi, Thomas Carr, James Farlow, Donald Glut, John Horner, Halszka Osmolska, Robert Bakker, Carl Mehling, Mark Loewen, Michael Brett-Surman, Dale Russell, John Scannella, Wes Long, Kevin Seymour, Michael Greenwald, John Harris, Tim Tokaryk, and anonymous reviewers.

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Paul, G.S., Persons, W.S. & Van Raalte, J. The Tyrant Lizard King, Queen and Emperor: Multiple Lines of Morphological and Stratigraphic Evidence Support Subtle Evolution and Probable Speciation Within the North American Genus Tyrannosaurus. Evol Biol 49, 156–179 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11692-022-09561-5

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