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Scientists found a cousin of the scary Tyrannosaurus rex

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Posted May 11, 2019

Dinosaurs went extinct around 60-65 millions of years ago and scientists are still discovering new species. This is quite a peculiar concept – discovering animals that are no longer here. However, modern scientific methods allow us to take a closer look at the past of our planet. Now a team of palaeontologists identified a previously unknown relative of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Huge and scary Tyrannosaurus rex evolved from smaller second-tier predators. Image credit: Christian-wittmann-1964 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This newly discovered species, called Suskityrannus hazelae, dates back 92 million years to the Cretaceous period. That was the time when the biggest known dinosaurs were roaming the Earth. However, this one was not one of them – it was around nine feet (2.7 meters) long and preyed on smaller animals. This makes the Suskityrannus hazelae significantly smaller than its cousin T. rex, which actually lives about 25 million years later. On the other hand, this small dinosaur had a similar body composition and moved in a very similar manner. Scientists say that this discovery improves our understanding of the evolution of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Interestingly, this discovery was not made during some current digging expeditions or extensive researches. In fact, scientists discovered the Suskityrannus hazelae by studying two fossils discovered in the late 1990s. The first fossil was actually found by a 16 year old Dr Sterling Nesbitt in New Mexico in 1998. Nesbitt himself became a scientist and in 2006 brought the fossils with him through various postings as a student and researcher in New York, Texas, Illinois and Virginia. This means that it took 20 years for scientists to take a look at that fossil and realize that it belongs to a previously not described species, which allows us to hope that many more of discoveries like this one will be done in the near future.

Tyrannosaurus rex was a huge dinosaur. It could grow to lengths of over 12.3 m and be as tall as 3.66 meters. While no one knows for sure, scientists estimate that Tyrannosaurus weighed between 8.5 and 14 tonnes. It was a huge and scary predator, but it evolved from smaller dinosaurs. Dr Steve Brusatte, one of the authors of the study, said: “The new species shows that tyrannosaurs developed many of their signature features like a muscular skull, broad mouth, and a shock-absorbing foot when they were still small, maybe as adaptations for living in the shadows”.

Evolution of dinosaurs is difficult to research. A lot of fossil records have been collected over the years, but a lot of them remain to be examined. It may take decades to put everything into a nice smooth timeline, where dinosaurs grew, thrived and disappeared.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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