A team of researchers have identified a new relative of Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex), which is significantly smaller in size than the known carnivorous dinosaur, according to a study released on Monday by the University of Edinburgh.
Fully grown, the small dinosaur stood 3 feet tall at the hip and about 9 feet long, which made it "only marginally longer than the just the skull of a fully grown Tyrannosaurus rex", according to Virginia Tech's Department of Geosciences. T. rex weighed around 9 tons and measured about 40 feet (12 meters) in length.
"Suskityrannus helps us constrain the time that large tyrannosauroid dinosaurs got big-sometime after approximately 92 million years ago-and became the biggest meat eaters at the time", said Nesbitt.
"It also belongs to a dinosaurian fauna that just proceeds the iconic dinosaurian faunas in the latest Cretaceous that include some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as the Triceratops, predators like Tyrannosaurus rex, and duckbill dinosaurs like Edmontosaurus".
"My discovery of a partial skeleton of Suskityrannus put me onto a scientific journey that has framed my career", Nesbitt wrote, according to a city of Mesa press release.
Reconstruction of the tyrannosauroid Suskityrannus hazelae from the Late Cretaceous (~92 million years ago) in current day New Mexico.
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Monday's report said that Suskityrannus hazelae provides an intermediate link between older, smaller tyrannosaurs and the very big, last-surviving members of the species.
The fossil is also one of the most complete skeletons of any non-tyrannosaurid from North America - all of the older fossil occurrences consist of teeth, isolated bones, or a partially associated skeleton. Nesbitt said permission was granted from the Zuni Tribal Council to use the word "Suski".
Armita Manafzadeh, a PhD candidate from Brown University who is not affiliated with the study, is particularly interested in the Suskityrannus' arctometatarsalian foot where the three long bones of the foot's sole are pinched together. Palaeontologists are now certain the Suskityrannus was a smaller cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex, whose Latin name means King. "Following Sterling out to see his dinosaur, I was amazed at how complete a skeleton was lying exposed at the site", Kirkland said. The first skeleton was discovered in 1997 by Robert Denton, who's now a senior geologist with Terracon Consultants. He added the team first thought they had the remains of a dromaeosaur, such as Velociraptor.
"Essentially, we didn't know we had a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex for many years", Nesbitt said.
A decent portion of the skeleton was represented in the two specimens, but some parts of its skull, hands, and feet were missing. Its final home with be at the Arizona Museum of Natural History. "So she's been instrumental to organizing and mentoring young students like I was back then", said Nesbitt.
During that period, many dinosaurs evolved into supersized versions. "If we did not find the two specimens of Suskityrannus we would have never known this animal existed".