3-foot Tall Cousin of T-Rex Found

When you hear that the infamous prehistoric animal Tyrannosaurus rex had a “cousin,” you’d think it would be as large as the T-rex. Well, as it turns out, not only the T-rex did had a “cousin,” it was very much smaller. Paleontologist and assistant professor with Department of Geosciences at the Virginia Tech College of Science, Sterling Nesbitt, and an international team of scientists have revealed that they have discovered and named a new tyrannosauroid dinosaur.

3-foot Tall Cousin of T-Rex Found
Sterling Nesbitt and fossil remains of Suskityrannus hazelae, which he found at age 16 in 1998.

Called Suskityrannus hazelae, this newly discovered dinosaur stood just 3 feet (91 centimeters) tall at the hip and about 9 feet (2.74 meters) long, and believed to have weighed around 45-90 lbs (20-40 kilograms). Both the size and heft are a far cry from its ferocious relative, the T-rex, that had a weight of around 9 tons. I guess that kind of makes it rather puny by dinosaurs’ standards of its time where some of the largest dinosaurs were roaming the land. While its diet is unknown, scientists have no question that it was a carnivore that likely fed on small animals.

3-foot Tall Cousin of T-Rex Found
The fossil compared to the cast of a full-sized partial jaw lower jaw Tyrannosaurus rex.

Nesbitt discovered the fossil at age 16 as a high school student in Zuni Basin of western New Mexico back in 1998, in a dig expedition in led by Doug Wolfe, an author on the paper. But it was until recently that it was established that the 20-year-old discovery was in fact a close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Previously, it was thought it might have been that of a dromeosaur, such as Velociraptor. Anyways, based on an analysis of the growth from its bones, it was estimated that dinosaur was at least 3 year old when it died some 92 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.

3-foot Tall Cousin of T-Rex Found
Sterling Nesbitt at age 16 in western New Mexico, where he found the fossil remains of what would be named Suskityrannus hazelae. Photo by Hazel Wolfe.

So, now that you know the existence of Suskityrannus hazelae, a close relative to T-rex, you must be wondering, did it had small arms like its humongous cousin? Sadly, though, we can’t make jokes out of it just yet because, arms weren’t found with the fossils. Though partial hand claws were found, they were not enough to establish the size of the arms. Even the claws weren’t enough to shed light on how many digits it had on each arm. So, yeah, the finding was partial skeletons.

However, it was considered more complete specimen of the two findings. The first set of partial fossil of the Suski was found in 1997 by Robert Denton, who is currently a senior geologist with Terracon Consultants.

Assistant professor Nesbitt and the team did a “world Premiere” of the Suskityrannus hazelae on May 6’s evening at the 4069 Derring Hall on the Virginia Tech campus. The revealing was followed by A Meet the Scientist event held at the Museum of Geosciences. If you are interested, you can read the findings published on Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Images: Virginia Tech College of Science.

Hat tip: Virginia Tech College of Science.