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Scientists Discover T. Rex’s Cousin With Features Unlike ‘Anything We’ve Ever Seen’

by : Lucy Connolly on : 11 Feb 2020 16:58
Scientists Discover T. Rex's Cousin With Features Unlike 'Anything We've Ever Seen'Scientists Discover T. Rex's Cousin With Features Unlike 'Anything We've Ever Seen'Julius Scotonyi/Royal Tyrrell Museum

Scientists have discovered the fossils of a new type of tyrannosaur, a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex, which has been dubbed the ‘reaper of death’.

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The carnivorous Thanatotheristes degrootorum, which was discovered in Alberta, Canada, reportedly had serrated teeth and a monstrous face when it roamed the Earth millions of years ago.

At 79.5 million years old, the dinosaur is the oldest known named tyrannosaur on record from northern North America, according to researchers of a new study on the discovery. It’s also the first previously unknown tyrannosaur species to be discovered in Canada in 50 years.

t rex cousint rex cousinJulius Scotonyi/Royal Tyrrell Museum

Palaeontologists at the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum have been examining the fossils over the past year, nearly a decade after they were first found near the town of Hays in 2010.

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The new species was identified from a fragmentary fossil consisting of parts of the skull and the upper and lower jaw bones, which had apparently fallen from a cliff before being discovered by John and Sandra De Groot (after whom the Thanatotheristes degrootorum was named), while Thanatotheristes translates from the Greek to ‘Reaper of Death’.

The De Groot’s told the Royal Tyrrell Museum about their discovery, but it wasn’t until PhD student Jared Voris was going through the museum’s collections that he realised it was a newfound species.

Voris, the study’s lead author whose analysis identified the new species, said:

We found features of the skull that had not been seen before in other tyrannosaurs. The fossil has several physical features, including ridges along the upper jaw, which clearly distinguishes it as being from a new species.

Royal Tyrrell Museum discovers new fossilsRoyal Tyrrell Museum discovers new fossilsRoyal Tyrrell Museum

Voris said the fossil specimen is very important to understanding the Late Cretaceous period, when tyrannosaurs roamed the Earth. Thanatotheristes degrootorum would have lived during this period, the last period of the dinosaur age, which lasted from about 145 million to 65 million years ago.

The dinosaur, which had a mouthful of knife-like teeth that were more than 2.7 inches long, measured about 26 feet long from snout to tail – or about the length of four king-size mattresses lined up end to end. In other words, it was pretty darn big.

The newly discovered dinosaur also had vertical ridges running from its eyes to its nose, although it’s not known what these ridges were used for or what purpose they served.

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These features differ from tyrannosaur groups in other regions, with study co-author Dr. Darla Zelenitsky saying these differences in size and skull shape could be adaptations to different environments, available prey type and hunting strategies.

t rex cousint rex cousinJulius Scotonyi/Royal Tyrrell Museum

There were other fossils found nearby those of T. degrootorum, but those reportedly belonged to plant-eating dinosaurs, which would have been prey for the carnivore.

The study was published online last month in the journal Cretaceous Research.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Canada, dinosaurs, Paleontology, Rex, Science, T-Rex, Tyrannosaur, Tyrannosaurs

Credits

University of Calgary and 1 other
  1. University of Calgary

    New, large meat-eating dinosaur discovered in Alberta

  2. Cretaceous Research

    A new tyrannosaurine (Theropoda:Tyrannosauridae) from the Campanian Foremost Formation of Alberta, Canada, provides insight into the evolution and biogeography of tyrannosaurids