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SYFY WIRE Tyrannosaurus Rex

The 'Reaper of Death': Meet the ravenous new species of Tyrannosaur

By Jeff Spry
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That thunderous clamor you're hear stomping through the primeval forest plains of ancient Alberta, Canada might only be a distant echo in the infinite corridors of time, but rest assured that this newly discovered species was one apex predator not be be trifled with.

Representing the first new species of Tyrannosaur discovered in Canada in 50 years, Thanatotheristes degrootorum was just identified by a team of researchers with the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

This terrifying specimen had been gathering dust in storage inside the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller when PhD candidate Jared Voris pointed out curiously unique features uncommon in previously studied Tyrannosaur fossils, most notably several prominent vertical ridges running along the upper jaw line.

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“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 in a statement. “It would have been quite an imposing animal. It definitely would have caused some panic.”

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According to estimates, the fearsome creature lived during the late Cretaceous Period and would have measured out at over 26 feet long, with a massive skull spanning approximately 31 inches. Voris’ PhD thesis supervisor, Darla Zelenitsky, believes Thanatotheristes is a direct ancestor of the infamous lizard king and predates T-rex by 12 million years, making it the oldest known Tyrannosaur ever discovered in Canada.

Thanatotheristes degrootorum's official name combines the Greek word meaning "reaper of death" with the surname of the Alberta couple, DeGroot, who stumbled upon the rare fossil fragments back in 2010 beside the shores of the Bow River, west of Medicine Hat. 

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Internationally known paleoartist Julius Csotonyi rendered the beautiful portrait and whole body images of this magnificent meat-muncher, and explains the process by which it was captured.

"I had the pleasure to work closely with the authors, including Dr. François Therrien, who commissioned the artwork," Csotonyi tells SYFY WIRE. "I prepared the life reconstruction of the head using a digital painting technique, by a process that resembles traditional painting in acrylics. Reconstructing the facial integument of a tyrannosaurine is a bit challenging, because this group of dinosaurs had a variety of bone textures that correlated to varying degrees with the epidermal texture, so one has to try to make the best inference about the textural patterns of the skin."

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"In the case of Thanatotheristes, the vertical ridges on the maxillary bones almost certainly correlated with keratinous ornamentation on the surface, which I strove to highlight not only by the texture of the keeled ridges along the margin of the mouth, enhanced by the choice of low-angle lighting from the rear, but also by offsetting it in a different color than the surrounding tissue," he adds.

Yep, looks like the "reaper of death" to us!