'Reaper of death': Student discovers new Tyrannosaurus rex relative

Farmer unearths new cousin of T. rex dubbed ‘Reaper of Death

Researchers have discovered a large new species of tyrannosaur that lived around 80 million years ago and was closely related to the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex.

It is called "Thanatotheristes degrootorum" - the first word is Greek for "reaper of death".

"Alberta has a rich dinosaur history, and we have uncovered some of the biggest finds on Earth here in the province", study author François Therrien, from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, said in a statement. The meat-eating predator is said to have walked the Earth roughly 79.5 million years ago, nearly 2.5 million years older than its famous T-Rex cousin.

Artist's illustration of Thanatotheristes degrootorum. Well, until the next discovery, that is. De Groot has always been a paleontology fan, so having a species of T. rex named after him is no doubt a momentous honor. "We knew it was special because you could clearly see the fossilised teeth".

"Probably the most obvious difference for the general public is the presence of a series of vertical ridges on the upper jaw, and those probably in life would have been covered by scales."

"I think what's interesting here is that this discovery was not made by professional palaeontologists but by members of the public", Dr Therrien said.

That thunderous clamor you're hear stomping through the primeval forest plains of ancient Alberta, Canada might only be a distant echo in the infinite corridors of time, but rest assured that this newly discovered species was one apex predator not be be trifled with.

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"Thanatotheristes can be distinguished from all other tyrannosaurs by numerous characteristics of the skull", Voris said.

"Because of the nature of the food chain these large apex predators were rare compared to herbivorous or plant-eating dinosaurs".

He was part of the team that went to the location where the fossil was found. "Hearing that it is a new species, and seeing it given our family name, was beyond belief".

"Thanatotheristes degrootorum provides scientists with insights into the tyrannosaur family tree, and shows that tyrannosaurs from the Cretaceous of Alberta were more diverse than previously known".

Decades of science fiction has taught us that the Tyrannosaurus rex was the mighty king of the dinosaurs, but researchers now believe that the most iconic dino may have been more of a scavenger than a hunter.

An article detailing Thanatotheristes degrootorus and written by Voris, Zelenitsky, Therrien and paleontologist Caleb Brown, was published Monday in the journal Cretaceous Research.

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