T. rex fossil unearthed many years in the past is older, extra primitive relative of iconic dinosaur, scientists say


The Tyrannosaurus rex seemingly got here out of nowhere tens of tens of millions of years in the past, with its monstrous enamel and highly effective jaws dominating the tip of the age of the dinosaurs.

The way it got here to be is among the many many mysteries that paleontologists have lengthy tried to resolve. Researchers from a number of universities and the New Mexico Museum of Pure Historical past and Science say they now have yet another piece of the puzzle.

On Thursday, they unveiled fossil proof and printed their findings within the journal Scientific Reviews. Their examine identifies a brand new subspecies of tyrannosaur considered an older and extra primitive relative of the well-known T. rex.

There have been ohs and ahs because the huge jaw bone and pointy enamel have been revealed to a gaggle of schoolchildren. Items of the delicate specimen have been first discovered within the Eighties by boaters on the shore of New Mexico’s largest reservoir.

Tyrannosaur Fossil New Mexico
Researchers and college students get a more in-depth take a look at the jaw bone of a brand new subspecies of tyrannosaur unveiled on the New Mexico Museum of Pure Historical past and Science in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The researchers say the subspecies is considered as much as 7 million years older than the well-known T. rex.

Susan Montoya Bryan / AP


The identification of the brand new subspecies got here by a meticulous reexamination of the jaw and different items of the cranium that have been collected over years on the web site. The crew analyzed the specimen bone by bone, noting variations in quite a few options in contrast with these synonymous with T. rex.

“Science is a course of. With every new discovery, it forces us to return and take a look at and problem what we thought we knew, and that is the core story of this mission,” mentioned Anthony Fiorillo, a co-author of the examine and the chief director of the museum.

The variations between T. rex and Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis are delicate. However that is sometimes the case in intently associated species, mentioned Nick Longrich, a co-author from the Milner Centre for Evolution on the College of Bathtub in the UK.

“Evolution slowly causes mutations to construct up over tens of millions of years, inflicting species to look subtly totally different over time,” he mentioned.

The evaluation — outlined Thursday within the journal Scientific Reviews — suggests the brand new subspecies Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis was a side-branch within the species’ evolution, relatively than a direct ancestor of T. rex.

The researchers decided it predated T. rex by as much as 7 million years, displaying that tyrannosaurs have been in North America lengthy earlier than paleontologists beforehand thought.

Tyrannosaur Fossil New Mexico
The enamel and jawbone of a newly recognized subspecies of tryannosaur are displayed at New Mexico Museum of Pure Historical past and Science in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.

Susan Montoya Bryan / AP


With no shut kin in North America, co-author Sebastian Dalman wished to reexamine specimens collected from southern New Mexico. That work began in 2013 when he was a scholar.

“Quickly we began to suspect we have been on to one thing new,” Dalman mentioned.

T. rex has a fame as a fierce predator. It measured as much as 40 ft lengthy and 12 ft excessive. Dalman and the opposite researchers say T. mcraeensis was roughly the identical measurement and likewise ate meat.

Thomas Richard Holtz, a paleontologist on the College of Maryland who was not concerned within the examine, mentioned the tyrannosaur fossil from New Mexico has been recognized for some time however its significance was not clear.

One fascinating facet of the analysis is that it seems T. rex’s closest kin have been from southern North America, apart from Mongolian Tarbosaurus and Chinese language Zhuchengtyrannus, Holtz mentioned. That leaves the query of whether or not these Asian dinosaurs have been immigrants from North America or if the brand new subspecies and different massive tyrannosaurs have been immigrants from Asia.

“One nice hindrance to fixing this query is that we do not have good fossil websites of the correct environments in Asia older than Tarbosaurus and Zhuchengtyrannus, so we will not see if their ancestors have been current there or not,” Holtz mentioned.

He and the researchers who analyzed the specimen agree that extra fossils from the Corridor Lake Formation in southern New Mexico may assist reply additional questions.

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