Monday, 20 May, 2019

Small T. rex Relative Found in New Mexico: Suskityrannus hazelae | Paleontology

Dinosaur fossils: Scientists identify a tiny, duck-billed cousin to the T. rex Newfound 'Mini T. Rex' Was a Tiny Terror at Just 3 Feet Tall
Sandy Nunez | 09 May, 2019, 14:52

Standing roughly 3 feet tall at the hip and about 9 feet in length, it was much less threatening, however. The fossils are detailed in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

It was only a few years later that a high school student by the name of Sterling Nesbitt made an interesting discovery during an expedition in New Mexico. Intriguingly, another such fossil presented just earlier this year was also a miniature dinosaur, raising even more questions about how T-Rex managed to reach its dominating size.

However, despite obvious differences, its diet likely consisted of the same as its larger meat-eating counterpart, with Suskityrannus hazelae likely hunting small animals, although what it hunted is unknown. The entire dinosaur was only slightly longer than the skull of a massive Tyrannosaurus rex. "More broadly, tyrannosauroids go back to the Middle Jurassic, around 160 million years ago, but it is only at the end of the Cretaceous that they got big".

This illustration shows a Suskityrannus hazelae, foreground, a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

"Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet", said Sterling Nesbitt, study author and assistant professor in the Virginia Tech College of Science's Department of Geosciences, in a statement.

Two specimens of the dinosaur were found by Arizona Museum of Natural History crews in the Zuni Basin of western New Mexico between 1996 and 1998. "The find also links the older and smaller tyrannosauroids from North America and China with the much larger tyrannosaurids that lasted until the final extinction of non-avian dinosaurs", Nesbit adds.

A decent portion of the skeleton was represented in the two specimens, but some parts of its skull, hands, and feet were missing.

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For much of the 20 years since the fossils were uncovered, the science team did not know what they had.

The new dinosaur is named after the Zuni Native American tribe word, "Suski" for coyote.

The report points out that T. rex only roamed the earth for 15 million years before the species was wiped out.

The fossil remains were found near other dinosaurs, along with the remains of fish, turtles, mammals, lizards, and crocodilians.

The Arizona Museum of Natural History will house a replica of the dinosaur. Then Nesbitt took them with him, as both a student and a researcher, to different institutions.

Finding the fossil, and working with the dig team members, sparked Nesbitt's career.

The study's lead author, Sterling Nesbitt, a paleontologist at Virginia Tech in the U.S., said that the fossils of the smaller T. rex cousin could provide one of the best examples yet as to how a smaller family of dinosaurs evolved into monstrous super predators. Nesbitt told the university that permission was granted from the Zuni Tribal Council to use the word "Suski".