Tyrannosaurs often bear fierce names. Aside from the “tyrant lizard” Tyrannosaurus itself, there’s the “monstrous murderer” Teratophoneus, the “frightful lizard” Daspletosaurus, and the “gore king” Lythronax. But a new set of tyrannosaur bones extracted from the 80-million-year-old rock of New Mexico may have one of the most imposing names of all—Dynamoterror dynastes, the “powerful terror ruler.”
It took years of puzzling together the recovered shards before the critical fragments—a pair of telltale skull bones called frontals—were pieced together, revealing the fossil’s identity as a previously-unknown tyrannosaur.
T. rex lived between 68 and 66 million years ago, and many of its famous relatives—like Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus—lived about 75 million years ago. Dynamoterror and its relative Lythronax from Utah are more ancient still, about 80 million years old. “This indicates that derived tyrannosaurs must have arisen at an even earlier date” than previously expected, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science paleontologist Thomas Williamson says. The find points to an older, as-yet-unknown diversification of these famous carnivores.
In life, [paleontologist Andrew] McDonald and colleagues hypothesize, Dynamoterror would have been about 30 feet long. Far larger than the earliest tyrannosaurs, though not quite as big as the celebrity T. rex, Dynamoterror is comparable in size to a few other tyrannosaurs of similar age—large enough to earn top predator status in its ancient realm.
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