Newly Discovered Tyrannosaur Was Key to the Rise of Giant Meat-Eaters
by Riley Black/Smithsonianmag.com
Paleontologists are uncovering tyrannosaurs at a fast and furious pace. The classic Tyrannosaurus rex may remain the most famous of all, but, in the last year alone, experts have described the bones of pipsqueaks that were far from the top of the food chain, leggy predators that lived in the shadow of other carnivorous giants, and short-snouted species that stalked the floodplains of the ancient west over 10 million years before the tyrant lizard king itself.
Now the University of Calgary paleontologist Darla Zelenitsky has added another dinosaur to the tyrannosaur family, and this particular flesh-ripper reveals a surprise about the early days of the ferocious family.
The tyrannosaurs that roamed North America during the last 10 million years of the Cretaceous were large, impressive animals with equally menacing names. Dinosaurs such as Gorgosaurus, Albertosaurus, Daspletosaurus and Tyrannosaurus itself became rock stars thanks to multiple, well-preserved skeletons found from sites in Montana and the Dakotas, as well as the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
But in the past ten years, paleontologists have begun announcing even older tyrannosaurs found much farther south, among the roughly 80 million-year-old rocks of Utah and New Mexico. There didn’t seem to be any tyrannosaurs from rocks of similar age to the north. Until now.