The Apocryphal Tarbosaurus Throat Skin
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By Carnoferox   |   Watch
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Published: December 16, 2018
A common paleo-rumor on the internet is that skin impressions from the throat region of Tarbosaurus reveal that it had some sort of dewlap or pouch. Many artworks have taken inspiration from this and given Tarbosaurus a skin structure on its throat. Although often depicted, there is almost never a source cited by the artist. So what is the actual source for this widespread piece of information? An unverifiable personal communication briefly mentioned in two books from around 20 years ago.

The pers. comm. in question was from Konstantin Mikhailov to Ken Carpenter, first reported in the Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs in 1997.
Carpenter (1997) p. 768
Impressions of skin around a badly weathered skull of Tyrannosaurus (= Tarbosaurus) bataar in Mongolia showed the presence of a wattle or bag of skin under the jaws (Mikhailov, personal communication). Perhaps this bag of skin enabled large chunks of prey to be swallowed. It is also possible that the skin was a brightly colored dewlap similar to that seen in some lizards today.
It was discussed again in Eggs, Nests, and Baby Dinosaurs in 1999, this time with an accompanying speculative reconstruction. 
Carpenter (1999) pp. 60-61
Tyrannosaurus and related large carnivores lack any display structure of bone on the head or body. Tyrannosaurus did, however, apparently have either a pelican-like pouch or dewlap based on an impression of the skin found below a skull in Mongolia (Mikhailov, personal communication). This, like other remarkable traces of dinosaur skin, shows that dinosaurs had display structures that rarely fossilized. If the impression is a dewlap, then Tyrannosaurus might have courted by displaying his dewlap. If the impression was a pelican-like pouch, then possibly a brightly-colored pouch was inflated and displayed with the head tilted back somewhat like a frigate bird (Fig. 4.13).
Fig. 4.13 from Carpenter (1999) by Carnoferox

Yes, this is all that's been published about the Tarbosaurus throat skin. There have been no further developments in the two decades since.
In the absence of photographs or other forms of verification, this can only be considered an interesting but dubious anecdote. Paleoartists need to stop repeating it as if it were fact without acknowledging the source. It also shouldn't be confused with the legitimate Tarbosaurus skin impressions published in Currie et al. (2003).

To my knowledge, there is still nothing to suggest against restoring Tarbosaurus with a throat pouch or dewlap. However, when illustrated it should be noted as pure speculation and not claimed to be based on definitive evidence. 

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Comments (2)
ArminReindl's avatar
ArminReindl|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I really wonder why that suddenly re-appeared in artwork recently. Because whenever I saw someone post a drawing using this meme, it was phrased as if that was new developement.
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Carnoferox's avatar
It probably has to do with the renewed discussion about tyrannosaurid integument in the past two years.
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