A new cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex has been recently rediscovered by a Ph.D candidate studying at the University of Calgary. The species is now known as Thanatotheristes degrootorum, inspired by the Greek god of death Thanatos, the word theristes (one who reaps or harvests), and the names of the people who initially made the discovery. The findings have been detailed in a new study published in Cretaceous Research.
The discovery was the first new Tyrannosaurus species found in Canada within the last 50 years. The bones were discovered by Sandra and John De Groot, in 2008 while hiking near their farm near Hays, Alberta along the shore where the Oldman River meets the Bow River. During their initial search, they recovered three large brown chunks of a dinosaur jaw.
After speaking with Donald Henderson, a paleontologist at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Alberta, the De Groots donated their specimens to the museum. They later went with a team of paleontologists to the riverbank and uncovered more skull pieces. Researchers now have two skulls from this new species.
The bones sat in a museum drawer for nearly a decade until Jared Voris, a graduate student at the University of Calgary and lead author of the study, began examining them. Voris said in a press statement, “Thanatotheristes can be distinguished from all other tyrannosaurs by numerous characteristics of the skull, but the most prominent are vertical ridges that run the length of the upper jaw.” The new species also has distinct cheekbones and a long and deep snout.
The new species is at least 2.5 million years older than its closest relatives at about 79.5 million years old. It was smaller than a T. rex, measuring about 8 feet tall, 26 to 30 feet long, and weighing roughly 2 tons as a full-grown adult. As the team uncovers more specimens, they will likely find more differences between Thanatotheristes degrootorum and the other species in the tyrannosaur family.