Welcome, “Monstrous Murderer”!
Happy “Superbowl Sunday” weekend (Not that I’m keeping score OR watching)! I wanted to take a minute and tell you about a new dinosaur just described!
Watch out—-there’s a new kid on the block and he comes from my expansive and scenic “neighborhood” of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah…
(Photo of GSENM taken by yours truly, 2010)
Hailing from the Kaiparowits Formation—75 million years ago—Teratophoneus curriei meaning “Currie’s monstrous murderer” named after paleontologist Dr. Phillip J. Currie differs from other tyrannosauroids (like T.rex) in having a short skull, as indicated by a short and steep maxilla, abrupt angle in the postorbital process of the jugal, reduced number of teeth, amongst other differences.
(Photo via http://grandstaircaseescalante.wordpress.com and Gaston Design)
Very exciting…the new dinosaur could be a missing link in the evolution of the tyrannosaur family, reports the Smithsonian blog:
Found in the 75-million-year-old rock of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Teratophoneus is known from a partial skull and additional elements from the rest of the skeleton. Its head was short—a departure from the typically long-snouted profiles of other tyrannosaurs—and it was a close relative of the northern forms Daspletosaurus and (pan American forms of) Tyrannosaurus. Based on its anatomy and its geographic place, Teratophoneus appears to be part of a unique radiation of southern tyrannosaurs.
Paleontologists have seen this pattern before. Just last year scientists described two new horned dinosaurs from the same place—Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops—which indicated that dinosaurs in the American Southwest evolved differently from their cousins to the north. There must have been some sort of barrier that kept dinosaur populations separate and caused the northern and southern groups to evolve in distinct ways. The peculiar anatomy of Teratophoneus adds further support to this idea.
Don’t be too scared…Teratophoneus was a lightweight at only one-tenth the mass of seven-ton Tyrannosaurus rex.
For scale: My friend Dr. Kirk Johnson, chief curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with Teratophoneus and Diabloceratops (right). (Photo by Beth Kampschror.)
Looks like Diabloceratops would have been able to put the “monstrous murderer” in his place!
Have a great weekend,
Carr TD, Williamson TE, Britt BB, & Stadtman K (2011). Evidence for high taxonomic and morphologic tyrannosauroid diversity in the Late Cretaceous (Late Campanian) of the American Southwest and a new short-skulled tyrannosaurid from the Kaiparowits formation of Utah. Die Naturwissenschaften PMID: 21253683
Kirkland, J.I. & DeBlieux, D.D., 2010, “New basal centrosaurine ceratopsian skulls from the Wahweap Formation (Middle Campanian), Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, southern Utah”, In: Ryan, M.J., Chinnery-Allgeier, B.J., and Eberth, D.A. (eds.) New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, p. 117-140