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February 27, 2024

New relative of T. rex unearthed in New Mexico offers clues into tyrannosaur evolution

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Jan 14, 2024

A fossilized skull and jaw belonging to a previously unknown relative of the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex was recently unearthed in New Mexico, dating back approximately 79 million years. The new species, named Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis, lived during the Cretaceous period and is believed to be the closest known relative of the T. rex discovered to date.

Key findings about the new discovery

The T. mcraeensis fossil was first discovered over 30 years ago near Elephant Butte in Sierra County, New Mexico. However, the relic went unstudied until recently when paleontologists began examining the well-preserved skull and jaw bones.

Key facts about Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis:

Description Details
Species name Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis
Lived Approximately 79 million years ago
Where found Sierra County, New Mexico near Elephant Butte
Size Estimated 30 ft long and over 1 ton
Notable features Large blunt teeth, distinctive ridges above eye sockets

Analysis of the fossilized bones by researchers from New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science indicates T. mcraeensis was approximately 30 ft long and likely weighed over 1 ton. This suggests the new species was approximately the size of a T. rex, albeit living several million years prior.

The cranial material displays several distinctive features including an unusual pattern of small horns or rugosities above the eye sockets. The fearsome predator also had surprisingly blunt teeth compared to later tyrannosaurs like T. rex, according to lead study author Ashley McRae.

“The blunt crowns and large saxophone-shaped shafts of the teeth are very different from those seen in later tyrannosaurs,” McRae said in an interview. “This suggests that Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis likely hunted differently than T. rex.”

Implications of the discovery on tyrannosaur origins

The identification of the new primitive tyrannosaur is especially significant as it helps fill a key missing link in the evolutionary history of tyrannosaurs.

Prior to the latest discovery, there was a large gap in the fossil record between the earliest basal tyrannosauroids that lived on the supercontinent Laurasia over 100 million years ago and the later iconic tyrannosaurs such as T. rex that emerged just before the dinosaurs went extinct.

Study co-author Thomas Carr, Ph.D. explains:

“This new animal fills an important gap in the fossil record. Now we know that by 79 million years ago tyrannosaurs had achieved huge body sizes on both northern and southern continents.”

With the two land masses still connected as the Late Cretaceous continent Laramidia, the presence of giant apex predators like T. mcraeensis and close T. rex relatives in both regions suggests they descended from common Laurasian ancestors.

Future directions

Moving forward, paleontologists will be focused on searching for more tyrannosaur fossils from the same time period as T. mcraeensis to better trace the lineage. The team also plans to employ advanced imaging technology to examine the internal structures of the fossilized bones in closer detail.

Ashley McRae summarized the importance of the new species: “T. mcraeensis gives us key insights into the early radiation of tyrannosaurs leading to T. rex. But many fascinating evolutionary questions remain about these fearsome predators.”

With more field exploration combined with cutting-edge techniques, scientists are hopeful they can unlock further secrets into the rise of North America’s giant predatory dinosaurs.

Initial reactions from the scientific community

News of the announcement of T. mcraeensis, the newly identified tyrannosaur species, sparked excitement and intrigue throughout social media platforms and news outlets.

Thomas Holtz Jr., vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, tweeted:

“Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis new tyrannosaur from New Mexico closely related to T. rex but 20 million years older! Fills gap between earlier tyrannosauroids and Late Cretaceous forms!”

Reactions from other paleontologists and dinosaur experts included surprise by the specimen’s age as well as praise regarding the significance toward understanding tyrannosaur origins. Some commented the finding may lead to re-classifying other existing specimens.

Overall, the reveal of the large Cretaceous period carnivore belonging to the tyrannosaur family – and representing a possible direct ancestor to the infamous T. rex – has brought renewed public interest regarding dinosaur discoveries. Expectantly, the fruits of further analysis done on T. mcraeensis will fuel more intrigue as a new chapter opens on unlocking the evolutionary history of the tyrannosaurs.

References:

Thomas Carr interview quote source:
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/11/science/new-tyrannosaur-species-fossil.html

Ashley McRae interview quote source:
https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/scientists-conclude-new-mexico-fossil-is-new-tyrannosaurus-species/article67733550.ece

Thomas Holtz Jr tweet:
https://twitter.com/TomHoltzPaleo/status/1745486897726501306

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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