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Giant Dinosaur Remains Discovered By Pipeline Crew In Western Canada

Paleontologists from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum have recently discovered a new giant tyrannosaur whose name means “reaper of death” from Alberta, a province in Western Canada.

Analysis revealed that the 79-million-year-old remains belonged to Thanatotheristes, the earliest dinosaur ever documented in northern North America and the latest tyrannosaur species discovered in Canada in the last 5 decades.

Dr. Darla Zelenitsky, Principal Dinosaur Researcher of the University of Calgary and Assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience, co-author of the study, said, “It’s the oldest example of a large tyrannosaur in Canada found in an older window of time than in previous tyrannosaurs.”

Jared Voris, the study lead author, who conducted key examination in detecting the new species, believes in the significance of the remains’ specimen in providing insights into the Late Late Cretaceous period, during the time that tyrannosaurs dominated the planet.

Source: Tourmaline Oil Corp

More information might be extracted towards the evolution of tyrannosaur and the method they interacted with the surroundings.

“With this new species, we now know that tyrannosaurs were present in Alberta prior to 77 million years ago, the age of the next-oldest tyrannosaur,” says co-author Dr. François Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. “We can tell from the skull how Thanatotheristes is related to the other, better-known tyrannosaurs from Alberta.”

New species have distinct physical features

Scientists detected the identity of Thanatotheristes degrootorum, a new genus and species, based on the fragmentary remains including part of the skull and the upper and lower jawbones.

John and Sandra De Groot were the ones that discovered the bones, which appeared to have fallen off a cliff and taken apart on the shore of the Bow River, now located next to the town of Hays, roughly 200 km southeast of Calgary.

Source: Twitter

Voris conducted the initial analysis on the sample while it was on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, saying that they discovered some aspects of the skull that had not yet been observed in other tyrannosaurs.

“The fossil has several physical features, including ridges along the upper jaw, which clearly distinguishes it as being from a new species,” Voris added.

Thanatotheristes is a close relative of two other well-known tyrannosaur species, Daspletosaurus torosus and Daspletosaurus horneri, all three of them create a newly-named group of dinosaurs known as Daspletosaurini, according to diagnostic analysis.

This group had longer, deeper snouts and more teeth in the upper jaws than tyrannosaurs found in the southern U.S., which had shorter, bulldog-like faces, Voris says.

Research indicates diversity among tyrannosaurs

Source: Julius Csotonyi

Thanatotheristes, which Voris estimates were approximately eight metres long, likely preyed on large plant-eating dinosaurs, such as the horned Xenoceratops and the dome-headed Colepiochephale that were part of the ecosystem.

The differences in size, skull shape and other physical features among tyrannosaur groups from various geographical regions may be adaptations to different environments, available prey type and hunting strategies, Zelenitsky says.

“Some species are better suited to certain environments,” Voris says. “This reduces competition and gives species a better chance of survival.”

Such “provinciality” can also be seen in modern ecosystems with lions and tigers, he adds. Lions are found in Africa and favour open, savanna-type environments, while tigers are found in Asia and prefer forested environments.

Royal Tyrrell Museum

Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum

The team’s research also suggests tyrannosaurs didn’t share one general body type. Instead, groups of different tyrannosaur species evolved distinct skull forms, body sizes and other physical features, spreading into different environments where each group thrived.

“The next step is to test that hypothesis further and compare how tyrannosaur species from various geological regions differed,” Voris says.

The team’s research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, an Eyes High Doctoral Recruitment Scholarship for Voris, and the Royal Tyrrell Museum Cooperating Society.

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