Newly Discovered Cousin Of T. Rex Was A Pint-Sized Killer

Katie Ramirez
May 9, 2019

The new species of dino is called "Suskityrannus hazelae" and part of it's name comes from the Native American word for "coyote". The fossil also dates back to the Cretaceous Period, when some of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered lived, the university said.

The research involved scientists from many global institutions and organizations, including Virginia Tech (lead institution), GeoConcepts Engineering, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the University of Utah, the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Stony Brook University, the Utah Geological Survey, the Wester Science Center in California, and the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences in Arizona.

The new dinosaur, named Suskityrannus hazelae, was a tiny relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, about 9 feet (2.7 m) long and 3 feet (0.9 m) tall at the hip. Palaeontologists are now certain the Suskityrannus was a smaller cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex, whose Latin name means King.

"Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet", says Nesbitt.

Reconstruction of the tyrannosauroid Suskityrannus hazelae from the Late Cretaceous (~92 million years ago) in current day New Mexico.

The creature walked the Earth just before the arrival of some of the most iconic dinosaur species in the late Cretaceous, such as the T. rex, Triceratops, and the Edmontosaurus.

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Armita Manafzadeh, a PhD candidate from Brown University who is not affiliated with the study, is particularly interested in the Suskityrannus' arctometatarsalian foot where the three long bones of the foot's sole are pinched together. Smaller tyrannosaurs are thought to have existed up to 150 million years before the T. rex. The first skeleton was discovered in 1997 by Robert Denton, who's now a senior geologist with Terracon Consultants.

However its relative, the very big Tyrannosaurus Rex we all know, only evolved around 15 million years before the dinosaurs were wiped out.

Dr Nesbitt's high school discovery the following year produced a more intact fossil.

For years, the scientists weren't sure with what they were dealing with, figuring the remains belonged to some kind of dromaeosaur, like a Velociraptor. It was only until other small tyrannosauroids were discovered that they began re-examining this important find, which Smithsonian Institution paleobiologist Hans Sues believes is "the first really good record of the early tyrannosaurs in North America".

Nesbitt said the newly discovered species is probably among the last of the little guys. "Clearly the most complete individual skeleton we had found in the entire basin and we had not even started to collect it". "This foot morphology has only been found in a few groups of Cretaceous theropod dinosaurs, and several biomechanical hypotheses have been put forward linking it to improved running ability".

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