A new tyrannosaur was discovered in southern Utah four years ago, and paleontologists unveiled the beast on Wednesday. The discovery proves that giant tyrant dinosaurs, like the Tyrannosaurus rex, are about 10 million years older than previously thought.
The Natural History Museum of Utah displayed a full skeletal replica of the massive carnivore, along with a 3-D model of the head and a large mural of the dino roaming along the shore.
The new species was named the Lythronax artestes, reports USA Today. The first part of the tyrannosaur’s first name means “king of gore,” and the second is a tribute to poet Homer’s southwest wind.
A team of paleontologists spent the last four years digging up the fossils from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. They were discovered in November 2009. Paleontologists believe the massive dino lived 80 million years ago on a landmass in the flooded central part of North America, notes NBC News.
While the new dinosaur is considered the uncle of the T-rex, it was likely a bit smaller than its successor, according to Mark Loewen, a University of Utah paleontologist who co-authored a journal article about the discovery. Loewen explained that the creature was 24 feet long and 8 feet tall at the hip. It was covered in scales and ate “whatever it wants.”
The paleontologist added, “That skull is designed for grabbing something, shaking it to death and tearing it apart.” The new tyrannosaur offers important insight into the evolution of the ferocious carnivores that were made famous in movies.
Vertebrate paleontologist Thomas Holtz Jr. from the University of Maryland department of geology reviewed the findings. He stated, “This shows that these big, banana-tooth bruisers go back to the very first days of the giant tyrant dinosaurs. This one is the first example of these kind of dinosaurs being the ruler of the land.”
The new tyrannosaur was discovered by a seasonal paleontologist technician for the Bureau of Land Management, who climbed up to cliffs, then stopped at the base of a third in the national monument. The technician, Scott Richardson, recalled, “I realized I was standing with bone all around me.”
After calling his supervisor, Loewen and others spent three years traveling the world to compare the fossils, making sure it was a new species. The fossils were discovered in the same rock formation that also produced the oldest-known triceratops, named “Diabloceratops.” Other dome-headed and armored dinosaurs have also been found there.
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