It has been years since the debate started about the existence of the Tyrannosaurus rex (T-Rex) dinosaur and now after ages, scientists said on Monday that they had discovered a new species of dinosaur, which is closely related to T-Rex that strode the plains of North America some 80 million years ago.
T-Rex is one of the most famous ancient species who were a type of theropod dinosaur. The study, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, revealed that fragments of a fossilized skull belonging to a previously unknown species of T-Rex were found in southern Alberta, Canada.
Jared Voris, a PhD student at Calgary, discovered the specimen that is the first new tyrannosaur species found for 50 years in Canada.
Thanatotheristes degrootorum — Greek for "Reaper of Death" — is thought to be the oldest member of the T-Rex family yet discovered in northern North America, and would have grown to around eight metres (26 feet) in length.
What is Thanatos?
Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor of Dinosaur Palaeobiology at Canada's University of Calgary, told AFP: "We chose a name that embodies what this tyrannosaur was as the only known large apex predator of its time in Canada, the reaper of death. The nickname has come to be Thanatos."
The scientists said that though T-Rex, which was immortalised in director Steven Spielberg's 1993 epic Jurassic Park, stalked its prey around 66 million years ago, Thanatos dates back at least 79 million years.
Thanatos similar to primitive tyrannosaurs
Zelenitsky, co-author of the study, said: "There are very few species of tyrannosaurids, relatively speaking. Because of the nature of the food chain these large apex predators were rare compared to herbivorous or plant-eating dinosaurs."
According to the study, Thanatos had a long, deep snout, which was quite similar to more primitive tyrannosaurs that lived in the southern United States. The scientists said that the difference in the skull shapes of tyrannosaur between regions could have been down to differences in diet, and dependent on the prey available at the time.