A new species of tyrannosaur dubbed the “reaper of death” has been discovered in Canada, marking the first new variant of the genus to be found in the country for 50 years.
Thanatotheristes degrootorum – which gets its name from the Greek god of death Thanatos combined with theristes, one who reaps or harvests – the fossilised skull fragments and jaw bone of the the 79.5-milllion-year-old dinosaur were discovered by farmer and palaeontology enthusiast John De Groot as he hiked near Alberta.
“The jawbone was an absolutely stunning find” he said. “We knew it was special because you could clearly see the fossilized teeth.”
Now research from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology has found Mr De Groot’s discovery is the oldest ever within the borders of Canada.
“We are thrilled to announce the first new species of tyrannosaur to be discovered in Canada in 50 years,” said Dr François Therrien, curator of dinosaur palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
He added: “This discovery is significant because it fills in a gap in our understanding of tyrannosaur evolution.”
After analysis of its age and the shape of its skull, scientists were able to conclude the bones belonged to a unique species, standing 8ft tall with ridges in its upper jaw above its menacing, 7cm teeth.
Jared Voris, a University of Calgary PhD student and lead author of the study, said: “Thanatotheristes can be distinguished from all other tyrannosaurs by numerous characteristics of the skull, but the most prominent are vertical ridges that run the length of the upper jaw.”
The beast’s age puts it alongside only two other dinosaurs to have been found in Canada that stalked the earth between 66 and 77 million years ago – the dome-headed colepiocephale, and the horned cousin of the triceratops, xenoceratops.
The likely apex predator of the era is also one of only five tyrannosaur species to be discovered in the region, alongside Daspletosaurus, Gorgosaurus, Albertosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus.