Tyrannosaur Tuesday - Is Bigger Better?

Good afternoon and welcome to a somewhat rebranded (for this week) Tyrannosaur Tuesday. The recent news on the Perot Museum’s unveiling of  a reconstructed cast of Nanuqsaurus hoglundi has really had me thinking about my favorite dinosaur family. If I am making true confessions here, I have to admit that I am more of a fan of the smaller, more recently discovered tyrannosaurs than I am of this blog’s namesake Tyrant King (though that’s like saying that I like tacos more than enchiladas; I sure do still like them both a lot.)

My interest in T.rex’s smaller cousins probably has a lot to do with how much the family tree has filled in relatively recently. Like I said in last week’s T.rex Thursday post, one of the things that this blog did was help me reconnect with dinosaur science after having abandoned my path to paleontology as fruitless in my teen years of the early 1980’s. Learning about these more recent discoveries - and seeing that the future is potentially wide-open for more discoveries - is one of the most exciting parts of this project for me.

Lythronax argestes (below), announced in 2013, and two specimen of Teratophoneus cureii (above), described in 2011, at the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, UT.

Lythronax argestes (below), announced in 2013, and two specimen of Teratophoneus cureii (above), described in 2011, at the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, UT.

Last year, I was lucky enough to have time to stop in Salt Lake City, UT while driving cross-country. This gave me the chance to see two newly described family members - Lythronax argestes and Teratophoneus cureii - in one place. Lythronax in particular was pretty exciting, as it also was one of the most recently described new species in the Tyrannosaurid family. UMNH has done a fantastic job of reconstructing the skeleton and displaying it to the public.

And like 2011’s Teratophoneus cureii - which is displayed within view of Lythronax - the two Tyrannosaurs are both Utah natives, having been discovered in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There’s a little bit of time distance between the cousins - T. cureii dates from around 77-76 million years ago, and L. argestes from around 81-79 MYA.

Teratophoneus

Teratophoneus

Compared to the towering Tyrannosaurus rex, these two species are a bit less intimidating. The sole Lythronax is estimated to have weighed around 5,500 lbs and measured around 20 feet long. UMNH features two Teratophoneus - one adult, one sub-adult, which would have been a little smaller. By comparison, Sue, the largest T. rex so far discovered, measured around 40 feet in length and weighed in at an estimated 17,000 to 28,000 lbs.

Despite being in the middle of Dinosaur country, my busy summer hasn’t left a whole lot of time for exploring. But I do expect to have the chance to revisit Albuquerque next month with the hopes of finally catching up with another “pint-sized” Tyrannosaur, Bistahieversor, at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. And of course, I am itching to take another trip to the Perot in Dallas, which was a great museum to visit even without the updated Nanuqsaurus. With all of the recent discoveries, it’s a great time to be an observer.