How did T. rex get to be so awesome? A recent fossil discovery revealed its secret.

The Tyrannosaurus rex — the tiny-armed, 40-foot-tall, seven-ton, jaw-chomping, lizard-bird-monster-god-of-doom — is the undisputed king of the dinosaurs.

But how exactly does one get to be the king of the dinosaurs?

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Well, thanks to a newly discovered relative of the famed "Jurassic Park" star, we now know the secret to T. rex's dino-success. And it's not all about its massive physical stats, after all.


Spoiler alert: It's lasers. GIF from "Dino-Riders."

You read that right: THEY DISCOVERED A NEW DINOSAUR!

It's called Timurlengia euotica, and yes, it's technically not new new because it's already been dead for a gazillion years, but that's beside the point 'cause it's a new freakin' dinosaur

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If somehow that's not exciting enough, it also fills in a glaring 20-million-year fossil gap in our overall dino-knowledge! Thanks, T. euot!

Yeahhhhh I guess "T. euot" doesn't sound nearly as cool as "T. rex," huh? Oh well, I tried. (Also that's an artist's rendering, in case that wasn't clear.) Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

It all started in Uzbekistan back in 2004, when a team of paleontologists found the fossil of a weird-lookin' braincase.

They were as intrigued by the grapefruit-sized bone lump as they were confused. Which is kind of how I feel whenever someone smart and science-y feels compelled to distinguish between the terms "braincase" and "skull."

GIF from "Meet the Robinsons."

The mysterious braincase was hidden away in storage — until 2014, when it caught the eye of Dr. Steve Brusatte, a T-rexpert from the University of Edinburgh.

"When I looked at it, it struck me really quickly that this looked like a tyrannosaur braincase," he told National Geographic. "Not exactly T. rex, much smaller; the same bones in a T. Rex would be bigger than a basketball."

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Specifically, it was missing some of the recesses and knobs that are standard on a T. rex braincase, and its ear canals were surprisingly long — evidence of incredible aural abilities.

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In fact, the braincase was remarkably reminiscent of Xiongguanlong, another recently discovered tyrannosaurid that predated the rex by about 60 million years. But whereas Xionggunlong was believed to be about the size of a human, Timurlengia euotica clocked in around 600 pounds and the size of a horse.

The tyrannosaurid family tree. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

As Brusatte told CBS News:

Timurlengia "has an advanced brain. It has an ear with a very long cochlea, perfectly attuned to hearing low frequency sound. We used to think that those were the features of only the biggest tyrannosaurs, that those were things that evolved in the biggest tyrannosaurs in concert with the evolution of large size."

Note: This is not actually a GIF of a T. rex and T. euot nuzzling each other. GIF from "Walking With Dinosaurs."

You see, T. rex wasn't just a ginormous dino-dictator, ruling the Cretaceous with its teeny-tiny iron fists. It was also incredibly intelligent (for a dinosaur, anyway).

It had acute senses of sight, smell, and hearing, which gave it a leg up on the other predators roaming the land. And yes, it was also huge, which was obviously advantageous as well.

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But until this point, no one was really sure how it got there. How did it evolve to be a giant chompy monster that was also smarter than the average prehistoric lizard-bird?

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"It’s the head-first mode of evolution," said Hans-Dieter Sues, chair of the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and one of the co-authors of the study that discovered the T. euotica. "The brains [are] for the operation, and then you develop the bulk."

Hans-Dieter Sues presenting evidence of the T. euotica. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Put another way: T. rex is evolutionary evidence for the power of brains before brawn. And T. euotica is the missing link that proves it.

That's right, kids: If you study hard and believe in yourselves, you too can become a T. rex someday! That's how science works, right? 

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