Paleontologists at the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum have reported the discovery of an entirely new species of dinosaurs.
A large Tyranossaur discovered in Alberta, Canada is an entirely new predatory dinosaur whose name translates into reaper of Death. Called Thanatotheristes, it is believed that the creature roamed the Earth more than 79 million years ago.
The creature is reportedly the oldest tyrannosaur discovered in North America and the very first new tyrannosaur species that has been discovered and confirmed in Canada in the last five decades.
“This is the oldest occurrence of a large tyrannosaur in Canada, found in an older window of time than where previous tyrannosaurs have been found,” explained study co-author Dr. Darla Zelenitsky, Ph.D.
As revealed by Zelenitsky, whose analysis of the fossilized remains helped revealed the new species, the fossil specimen is of great importance in understanding the Late Cretaceous period, when tyrannosaurs called Earth their home.
The discovery is of great importance, the experts have revealed, as it offers an unprecedented new understanding of the evolution of tyrannosaurs and how the animals interacted with their environment nearly 80 million years ago.
“With this new species, we now know that tyrannosaurs were present in Alberta prior to 77 million years ago, the age of the next-oldest tyrannosaur,” revealed study co-author Dr. François Therrien, Ph.D.
“We can tell from the skull how Thanatotheristes is related to the other, better-known tyrannosaurs from Alberta.”
Distinct physical features
According to the new study ” A New Tyrannosaurine (Theropoda: Tyrannosauridae) from the Campanian Foremost Formation of Alberta, Canada, Provides Insight into the Evolution and Biogeography of Tyrannosaurids,” the new dinosaur has unique, distinct physical features.
The study reveals that Thanatotheristes degrootorum, is an entirely new genus and species. The creature was identified by experts thanks to a fragmentary fossil composed of parts of the skull and the upper and lower jawbones of the dinosaur.
The researchers have revealed that the bones of the dinosaur likely tumped from a cliff and shattered as they fell at the shore of the Bow River. Eventually, the bones were found in 2010 by John and Sandra De Groot.
The bones had remained tucked away in a drawer at the Royal Tyrrell Museum until Voris explained it and noticed something peculiar.
“We found features of the skull that had not been seen before in other tyrannosaurs,” he says.
“The fossil has several physical features, including ridges along the upper jaw, which clearly distinguishes it as being from a new species.”
The analysis of the fossilized remains shown that Thanatotheristes was a close relative to other two, well-known species of tyrannosaurs; Daspletosaurus torosus and Daspletosaurus horneri.
The researchers discovered that all three species are in fact one of the same group of dinosaurs that have been named Daspletosaurini.
This group as characterized by creatures with longer, deeper snouts, and many more teeth in their upper jaws, compared to other tyrannosaurs that lived in the Southern United States, which were characterized by having much shorter, bulldog-like faces, Voris explained.
The difference among tyrannosaurs; size, skull shape, and other physical features, is most likely due to the geographical locations the creatures inhabited. Unique biological features may have developed in order to allow them to adapt to different environments, and available prey type and hunting strategies, Zelenitsky says.
Experts also not that tyrannosaurs did not share a unique, general body type, but different groups of tyrannosaurs evolved distinct skull, features and body sizes.
Nonetheless, analysis of the fossilized remains has revealed that the new dinosaur was most likely around eight meters long and probably hunted and fed off of large plant-eating dinosaurs.
“Some species are better suited to certain environments,” Voris explained.
“This reduces competition and gives species a better chance of survival.”
The features among the dinosaurs aren’t unique to them say, experts, pointing to the fact that such provinciality is also seen in modern animals such as lions and tigers. Lions in Africa, for example, tend to favor open, savanna type environments while Asian tigers are more inclined to forested ecosystems.