A fearsome lizard whose name means “reaper of death” is the first new tyrannosaur species to be identified in Canada in 50 years, say researchers with the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The dinosaur is shown in a handout illustration. (Photo by Julius Csotonyi, University of Calgary

‘Reaper of death:’ Fearsome new dinosaur species discovered in Alberta

Tyrannosaur not believed to have been a direct ancestor of T. rex, but its own evolutionary offshoot

A fearsome lizard with a name meaning “reaper of death” is the first new tyrannosaur species to be identified in Canada in 50 years, say researchers with the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Tyrannosaurs were large meat-eating dinosaurs that walked on two legs and had short arms, two fingers and massive skulls with dagger-like teeth. Tyrannosaurus rex is the most famous in this group.

Jared Voris was examining skull fragments stored in a drawer at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta., as part of his masters thesis when he noticed features not seen in other tyrannosaur specimens. The most obvious were prominent vertical ridges along the upper jaw line.

“We’d find one feature, and then we’d find another, and then it would just kind of cascade into finally understanding that this was something completely different than what we’d seen before,” said Voris, who is now working on his PhD in paleontology at the University of Calgary.

Voris, 25, said “it’s definitely a weird feeling” to make a big discovery so early in his career.

He figures the beast could have been about eight metres long with an 80-centimetre skull.

“It would have been quite an imposing animal,” he said. ”It definitely would have caused some panic.”

READ MORE: B.C. researcher unveils province’s first unique dinosaur discovery

The new species is named Thanatotheristes degrootorum, which combines the Greek word for “reaper of death” with the name of a southern Alberta couple, the DeGroots, who happened upon the fossil fragments along the shore of the Bow River west of Medicine Hat, Alta., in 2010.

Darla Zelenitsky, who is Voris’s PhD thesis supervisor, said Thanatotheristes predates T. rex by about 12 million years and is the oldest known tyrannosaur discovered in Canada.

She said it offers clues about a poorly understood time period.

“We’re learning more about the ecosystem at this older period of time when dinosaurs roamed southern Alberta,” she said.

Only two other dinosaurs have been found in the same rock formation, and both were plant-eaters.

“This is the first apex predatory dinosaur species known from this formation,” said Zelenitsky.

“To me this is a big discovery and it’s even more exciting because it was made by one of my students.”

ALSO READ: Meet the T. rex cousin who you could literally look down on

The new tyrannosaur is not believed to have been a direct ancestor of T. rex, but was its own evolutionary offshoot. It seems to have more in common with a type of tyrannosaur found in Alberta called Daspletosaurus.

Francois Therrien, a paleontologist at the Royal Tyrrell, said the general public can play a role in new discoveries, just like the DeGroots did.

“A lot of people go in areas that paleontologists would not think of going, either because we’re unaware that there’s exposures in that area or just because there’s bigger pockets of badlands that we tend to focus on,” he said.

Anyone who finds a fossil should leave it where it is, note its exact location and contact the museum, he said.

Therrien, who also worked with Voris, said the student’s discovery is significant.

“First, discovering a new species and, second, it is a tyrannosaur. I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

An article detailing Thanatotheristes degrootorum and written by Voris, Zelenitsky, Therrien and paleontologist Caleb Brown, was published Monday in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Science

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Valley Bandits release top forward Cameron Forte

A team leader through four games of the CEBL Summer Series, Forte has been cut loose

The Happy Hiker, Art Lengkeek, recognized with bench and plaque on Mount Cheam trail

The 88 year old is a familiar sight on trails throughout the Fraser Valley and beyond

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Classes, theatre re-open at Chilliwack Cultural Centre under strict protocols

Smaller classes sizes, mandatory masks are some of the new rules at Chilliwack Cultural Centre

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Wildfire breaks out near Harrison Hot Springs

1.5 hectare fire is reportedly human caused

Police lay out details of mental health response in Abbotsford over long weekend

APD officers assist mental health team for three hours yesterday, man sent to hospital with injury

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Fraser Valley Bandits clinch playoff spot with win

Bandits down Niagara River Lions 70-57 on Sunday, improve to 3-2

Most Read