T. rex rel­a­tive was just dis­cov­ered by an NC team

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY ANNA JOHN­SON ajohn­[email protected]­sob­server.com Anna John­son: 919- 829- 4807, @an­na_m_john­son

A small yet mighty new di­nosaur was re­cently dis­cov­ered thanks to the work of a Raleigh pa­le­on­tol­o­gist and her team.

The new di­nosaur — Moros in­trepidus, which means “har­bin­ger of doom” after the Greek god Moros — is a rel­a­tive of the much larger Tyran­nosaurus rex, pro­vid­ing a gap on how the di­nosaurs evolved over time.

Stand­ing just 3 or 4 feet tall at its hip, the di­nosaur was dis­cov­ered in Utah by Lind­say Zanno and her team. Other mem­bers of the pa­le­on­tol­o­gist team in­clude Aurore Canoville, Ryan Tucker, Terry Gates, Ha­viv Avra­hami and Peter Makovicky.

“Moros was light­weight and ex­cep­tion­ally fast,” Zanno said in a news re­lease. “These adap­ta­tions, to­gether with ad­vanced sen­sory ca­pa­bil­i­ties, are the mark of a for­mi­da­ble preda­tor. It could have eas­ily run down prey, while avoid­ing con­fronta­tion with the top preda­tors of the day.”

Zanno — the head of pa­le­on­tol­ogy at the North Carolina Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral Sci­ences — un­veiled the di­nosaur fos­sils at the mu­seum Thurs­day af­ter­noon. She was the lead au­thor of the aca­demic pa­per out­lin­ing the re­search and is a pa­le­on­tol­o­gist at N.C. State Univer­sity. The team dis­cov­ered most of the di­nosaur’s right leg and some teeth that could also be­long to a Moros.

Many of the at­ten­dees were chil­dren, wide-eyed and arms raised to ask ques­tions about the new di­nosaur. Hold­ing a blue “long-neck” di­nosaur, 5-year-old Kyra Or­nel­las said she thinks learn­ing about di­nosaurs is “pretty cool” and she was im­pressed that Moros could run fast.

“It can run fast al­most like my run­ning shoes,” she said.

Her mother, Chloe Or­nel­las, said they are mem­bers of the mu­seum and en­joyed be­ing one of the firsts to see the di­nosaur fos­sils.

“My daugh­ter loves di­nosaurs,” said Chloe Or­nel­las. “And I think it’s a great op­por­tu­nity to see how pa­le­on­tol­o­gists work and to see the ex­cite­ment of sci­ence and (ex­cite­ment) of un­veil­ing a new di­nosaur.”

Moros lived about 96 mil­lion years ago dur­ing the Cre­ta­ceous pe­riod and is the old­est Cre­ta­ceous tyran­nosaur species dis­cov­ered in North Amer­ica, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease. The re­mains of its clos­est rel­a­tives have been found in parts of Asia, Zanno said.

De­spite be­ing made pop­u­lar by the movie “Juras­sic Park,” tyran­nosaurs, like the T. rex, didn’t rule the di­nosaur land­scape as Apex preda­tors un­til the Cre­ta­ceous pe­riod — about 81 mil­lion years ago. The tyran­nosaur fos­sils found through­out North Amer­ica were smaller and “prim­i­tive” dur­ing the Juras­sic pe­riod — about 150 mil­lion years — and hunted by much larger al­losaurus, she said.

The dis­cov­ery of Moros has helped bridge the fos­sil gap be­tween the two pe­ri­ods, lead­ing sci­en­tists to be­lieve it only took “15 mil­lion years to rise to power,” ac­cord­ing to the news re­lease.

“When and how quickly tyran­nosaurs went from wall­flower to prom king has been vex­ing pa­le­on­tol­o­gists for a long time,” Zanno said in a news re­lease. “The only way to at­tack this prob­lem was to get out there and find more data on these rare an­i­mals.”

The leg bones of Moros were found in the same area where Zanno found “Si­ats meekero­rum, a gi­ant meat-eat­ing car­char­o­don­tosaur that lived in the same time pe­riod.” Other fos­sils, in­clud­ing a nest of eggs, have also been dis­cov­ered by the team in the Utah bad­lands in the past decade. The Moros fos­sils were first spot­ted in 2012 but it took years to ex­ca­vate them and even longer to com­pare those bones to other fos­sils to con­firm they were, in­deed, a new di­nosaur.

Fran Puryear and her 12-year-old son Jack have been big fans of di­nosaurs and Zanno for years. Jack — who goes by “Juras­sic Jack” — event went out on a dig site in North Dakota last year. He’s wanted to be a pa­le­on­tol­o­gist since he was just a tod­dler.

“The field is still open to dis­cov­ery,” he said. “You can still find new things. And it’s the sheer joy of it.”

He was sur­prised at the size of Moros, orig­i­nally think­ing it may be the size of a chicken in­stead of a deer.

“I love to watch the joy of him lis­ten­ing,” Fran Puryear said. “The whole time he was sit­ting there go­ing ‘wow.’ It was amaz­ing. I got him out of school early for him to come.”


Moros in­trepidus

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