The fossil remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (T. Rex) “cousin species” have been uncovered in Alberta, Canada. Scientists are classifying the meat-eating dinosaur as Thanatotheristes degrootorum, and since they concluded that the remains are over 80 million years old, the T. Rex cousin is being deemed as the oldest known Tyrannosaur on record in North America; “Tyrannosaur” is the general term that covers all subspecies of the T. Rex.
Scientists are also nicknaming the species the “reapers of death” based on the fact that their fossils show evidence of a “monstrous face”, vicious looking serrated teeth that were likely as sharp as steak knives and 3 inches long, and legs that were 8 feet in length from foot to hip. The fossil evidence also allowed scientists to estimate that the reapers measured in at 26 feet long from snout to tail.
“Like other tyrannosaurs, the ‘reaper of death’ had strange bumps on its skull that gave it a monstrous appearance. But it also had a one-of-a-kind feature, a distinct set of vertical ridges that ran from its eyes along its upper snout. These ridges are not like anything we’ve ever seen before in other tyrannosaur species. Exactly what the ridges do, we’re not quite sure,” said study lead researcher Jared Voris, a doctoral student of paleontology at the University of Calgary in Alberta.
Voris and his team also concluded that the reapers of death walked the Earth during the Cretaceous period, which was the final period of the dinosaur age on Earth before they all were wiped out. This also means that these creatures were likely alive 145 million years ago (when the Cretaceous period began).
The initial remains that were discovered were found by a Canadian couple on the shore of the Bow River in southern Alberta. That was back in 2010, and at the time it was believed that the only dinosaurs who lived in the Alberta area, hundreds of millions of years ago, were plant eaters. So 10 years ago it was believed that the mysterious skull remains that the couple found were just another Triceratops relative of sorts; even though the skull remains were abnormally three feet in length.
Once Voris began his own personal research regarding new dinosaur species he was able to determine that those decade old remains were actually the reapers of death, and not just another herbivore. In fact, based on their new conclusions they’ve determined that the reapers likely ate a majority of the herbivores that did live in Alberta.
“The new discovery shows that Daspletosaurus-like tyrannosaurs were diversifying in the northern part of western North America about 80 million years ago. But these long- and deep-snouted tyrannosaurs appeared to stay in their neck of the woods. This seems to be a bigger theme: There were different subgroups of tyrannosaurs characteristic of certain times and places, and they did not all mix together,” said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
While the reapers of death weren’t as large as their more well known younger T. Rex cousins, their remains give scientists a great insight into the vastly diverse world of dinosaurs. Paleontologists and scientists alike can never be fully satisfied with their “conclusive” data regarding dinosaurs because they lived millions of years ago, making it close to impossible to know about every detail and subspecies that pertained to their time on Earth. However, discoveries such as this open dozens of doors in terms of possibilities for what other kinds of dinosaurs were roaming the Earth and where.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.