When it comes to discovering bones and fossils belonging to the carnivores that ruled the Jurassic era, Alberta, Canada, gets the top spot. Paleontologists have discovered remains of Albertosaurus, Gorgosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and, of course, the Tyrannosaurus rex.
And here comes what paleontologists state to be the oldest tyrannosaur to exist in Canada: Thanatotheristes degrootorum, or “the Reaper of Death.”
This one existed over 79.5 million years ago and had razor-sharp teeth and a scary two-ton frame. It is still smaller when compared to the T-rex but still measures at 30 feet long and 8 feet tall.
The new species of dinosaurs were at least 2.5 million years older than their closest relatives. The discovery of this species can provide some useful insights into how the T-rex evolved from small carnivores into the apex predators, which perished 66 million years ago.
“Now, with the new species we’ve actually pushed back the record of tyrannosaurs,” says François Therrien, a paleontologist at the Royal Tyrrel Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta, who is also an author on the paper about the new species.
The discovery of the Reaper of Death
The discovery of the species was first published in January in the journal Cretaceous Research, and the study was based on bones discovered by a pair of paleo-enthusiasts.
Sandra and John De Groot happened to find the bones of this species back in 2008, in the ice. The couple used to collect bones while hiking but never saw such a thing before. Two years later, a paleontologist named Donald Henderson gave a talk at a school where Mrs. De Groot is a substitute teacher.
After revealing her discovery, the couple donated the specimen to the museum and later, went with a team to the location and discovered more skull fragments. The paleontologists knew it was a tyrannosaur but didn’t know the kind.
It took over a year of study to determine its kind as it’s bone structure was different from the ones the T-rex had. It had oval-shaped cheekbones and aspects of the skull, which determined it to be older than the T-rex.
They honored De Groot’s by adding their name to it. It’s only a coincidence, but in the end, it shares names with both Thanos and Groot of the Marvel Universe.