Utah researchers have found what they believe is the most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton in the Southwest United States. While some parts of the dinosaur’s body were not included in the fossilized remains, the skeleton offers some clues about how life was for dinosaurs in their equivalent of puberty, and in that part of the world during the Cretaceous period.
According to Science Daily, the fossilized skeleton was airlifted by helicopter from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah on Sunday, October 15, and delivered to the Natural History Museum of Utah for further research. Researchers believe that the fossil belongs to Tetraphoneus curriei, a Tyrannosaurus subspecies that existed in North America between 66 and 90 million years ago, with the specific fossil’s age estimated to be about 76-million-years-old. The specimen is estimated to have been about 17 to 20 feet long, and is thought to have died either in a river channel, or during a flooding event that left its skeleton mostly intact.
Natural History Museum of Utah curator of paleontology Dr. Randall Irmis said in a statement that the newly-discovered Tyrannosaurus skeleton represents the most complete such skeleton discovered in its region, as it has at least 75 percent of its bones preserved.
“We are eager to get a closer look at this fossil to learn more about the southern tyrannosaur’s anatomy, biology, and evolution.”
As further detailed by Newsweek, the tyrannosaurus skeleton belongs to a sub-adult of the species, with the dinosaur believed to have died between the ages of 12 and 15. This adds to the existing T. curriei skeletons previously spotted by scientists, which belong to a slightly older and a slightly younger dinosaur. With the newly-discovered skeleton likely filling in the gap, Irmis believes this underscores the importance of having specimens corresponding to an animal’s different life stages.
As far as the life of this teenage dinosaur from the Cretaceous period is concerned, Irmis told Newsweek that it had roamed around the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area when it was rich with swampy forests, much like the bayous of Louisiana. This is a sharp contrast the high-elevation desert the location is in present-day Utah.
Even with about three-fourths of the Tyrannosaurus skeleton in place, researchers aren’t 100 percent sure whether the dinosaur in question was indeed an example of T. curriei; according to Newsweek, the rock around the dinosaur’s bones will need to be removed before its species is fully confirmed. As such, Irmis believes that a lot of work still needs to be done, with about 10,000 person-hours of work still needed to prepare the whole fossil.
[Featured Image by Herschel Hoffmeyer/Shutterstock]