SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Paleontologists on Wednesday unveiled
a new dinosaur discovered in southern Utah that proves giant tyrant
dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus rex were around 10 million years earlier
than previously believed.
A full skeletal replica of the carnivore — the equivalent of the great
uncle of the T. rex — was on display at the Natural History Museum of Utah
alongside a 3-D model of the head and a large painted mural of the
dinosaur roaming a shoreline.
It was the public's first glimpse at the new species, which researchers
named Lythronax argestes. The first part of the name means "king of gore,"
and the second part is derived from poet Homer's southwest wind.
The fossils were found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
in November 2009, and a team of paleontologists spent the past four years
digging them up and traveling the world to confirm they were from a new
Paleontologists believe the dinosaur lived 80 million years ago in the
late Cretaceous Period on a landmass in the flooded central region of
The discovery offers valuable new insight into the evolution of the
ferocious tyrannosaurs that have been made famous in movies and captured
the awe of school children and adults alike, said Thomas Holtz Jr., a
vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland department of
"This shows that these big, banana-tooth bruisers go back to the very
first days of the giant tyrant dinosaurs," said Holtz, who reviewed the
findings. "This one is the first example of these kind of dinosaurs being
the ruler of the land."
The new dinosaur likely was a bit smaller than the Tyrannosaurus rex but
was otherwise similar, said Mark Loewen, a University of Utah
paleontologist who co-authored a journal article about the discovery with
fellow University of Utah paleontologist Randall Irmis.
It was 24 feet long and 8 feet tall at the hip, and was covered in scales
and feathers, Loewen said. Asked what the carnivorous dinosaur ate, Loewen
responded: "Whatever it wants."
"That skull is designed for grabbing something, shaking it to death and
tearing it apart," he said.
The fossils were found by a seasonal paleontologist technician for the
Bureau of Land Management who climbed up two cliffs and stopped at the
base of a third in the national monument.
"I realized I was standing with bone all around me," said Scott
Richardson, who called his boss, Alan Titus, to let him know about the
Loewen and others spent three years traveling the world to compare the
fossils to other dinosaurs to be absolutely sure it was a new species. The
findings are being published in the journal PLOS One.
The fossils were found in a southern Utah rock formation that also has
produced the oldest-known triceratops, named "Diabloceratops," and other
dome-headed and armored dinosaurs.
There are about 1 million acres of cretaceous rocks that could be holding
other new species of dinosaurs, said Titus, the BLM paleontologist who
oversees the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Only about 10
percent of the rock formation has been scoured, he said. Twelve other new
dinosaurs found there are waiting to be named.
"We are just getting started," Titus said. "We have a really big sandbox
to play in."
Holtz said the finding is a testament to the bounty of fossils lying in
the earth in North America. He predicts more discoveries in Utah.
"It shows we don't have to go to Egypt or Mongolia or China to find new
dinosaurs," Holtz said. "It's just a matter of getting the field teams