Researchers in Canada have identified a new species of tyrannosaur that roamed North America around 80 million years ago.
Palaeontologists from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrell Museum in Canada recently dusted off some fossilised skull fragments, found by John De Groot, a farmer and palaeontology enthusiast, who stumbled upon the relics while hiking near Hays, Alberta.
Scientists analyzed the unique features of the fossil skull fragments from the toothy tyrant to identify the new tyrannosaur species, which is thought to be 2.5 million years older than its closest relative.
"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," said Jared Voris, a University of Calgary PhD student, and lead author of the study.
The predator has been officially named Thanatotheristes degrootorum; the first word is inspired by the Greek god of Death and "theristes", which translates to reaper, awarding the dino the fearsome "Reaper of Death" nickname. The second part of the name honours the De Groot family.
"This discovery is significant because it fills in a gap in our understanding of tyrannosaur evolution," concluded Dr. François Therrien, Curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
This new research comes shortly after a study found that Earth may have been contaminated with high levels of mercury long before a giant asteroid struck the planet, spelling the end of dinosaurs.
In this case, researchers examined fossilized marine mollusk shells across the globe to discover what appeared to be "a global signal of both abrupt ocean warming and distinctly elevated mercury concentrations" associated with the massive volcanic eruptions of the Deccan Traps in western India.
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