Meet the T. rex cousin who you could literally look down on

In this March 28, 2019 photo provided by Virginia Tech, Sterling Nesbitt, an Assistant Professor of Geobiology, sits for a photo next to the fossilized bones of Suskityrannus hazelae, a miniature adult Tyrannosaurus dinosaur relative, in Blacksburg, Va. He found some of the original fossils when he was 17 years old. (Erin Williams/Virginia Tech via AP)

Researchers identify an early cousin of the mighty T. rex, except this dinosaur was the size of a toddler.

WASHINGTON — History's most frightening dinosaur, the Tyrannosaurus rex, came from a long line of pipsqueaks.

Scientists have identified a new cousin of the T. rex as a dinosaur that only reached the 3-foot height of a toddler. If it stretched its duck-billed head, an adult human maybe "would be looking at it in the eye," said Sterling Nesbitt, a paleontologist at Virginia Tech, who discovered the dinosaur.

Nesbitt found a set of its bones in 1998 when he was 16, while serving as a volunteer on a dig in New Mexico with a famed paleontologist. But for about two decades, scientists weren't certain what it was, until other small cousins of T. rex were discovered.

"The small group of tyrannosauroid dinosaurs would give rise to some of the biggest predators that we've ever seen," said Nesbitt, lead author of a study in Monday's journal Nature Ecology and Evolution .

The new dinosaur is called Suskityrannus hazelae, named after the Zuni word for coyote. It dates back 92 million years, about 20 million years before the T. rex stomped the Earth.

The newly discovered cousin — which was three times longer than it was tall — weighed between 45 and 90 pounds, almost nothing compared to the nine-ton king of the dinosaurs.

Suskityrannus hazalae isn't the first or even smallest of the Tyrannosaurus family tree, but Nesbitt said it provides the best example of how this family of modest-sized dinosaurs evolved into the towering horror of movies, television shows and nightmares.

Smithsonian Institution paleobiologist Hans Sues, who wasn't part of the study, said it was an important find. "Suskityrannus is the first really good record of the early tyrannosaurs in North America," he wrote in an email.

It is unclear why these carnivores, which weren't particularly big compared with other dinosaurs alive at that time, later evolved to be so enormous.

Nesbitt said the newly discovered species is probably among the last of the little guys. It was bigger than earlier tyrannosauroids and had big feet needed for speed — something the T. rex lost.

___

Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears .

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Related News

8,000-year-old female figurine uncovered in central Turkey

Sep 15, 2016

Archaeologists have uncovered a rare stone figurine of a woman dating back 8,000 years at a dig in Turkey's central province of Konya that an expert says is one of only a handful of statuettes from that era ever found in one piece

Powell discusses secret Israeli nukes in leaked 2015 email

Sep 16, 2016

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Israel's nuclear weapons capability with a friend in a private email exchange last year that hackers leaked this week

Watchdog to probe Comey's, FBI's actions before election

Jan 12, 2017

The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation into department and FBI actions before the election, including whether FBI Director James Comey followed established policies in the email investigation of Hillary Clinton

Peaple also read these

Powell discusses secret Israeli nukes in leaked 2015 email

Sep 16, 2016

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Israel's nuclear weapons capability with a friend in a private email exchange last year that hackers leaked this week

Leonardo DiCaprio foundation backing Utah national monument

Jan 14, 2017

Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation is chipping in to support a new national monument in southern Utah that's been a flashpoint over public land use in the West

Samsung details causes of Note 7 fires but questions remain

Jan 23, 2017

Samsung Electronics says flaws in the design and production of batteries used in its Galaxy Note 7, not its hardware or software, made the smartphone prone to catching fire

About Us

Science Thread delivers quality and fascinating science and technology content that matters on a daily basis and makes it go viral.

Contact us: sales@sciencethread.com