An older relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex was discovered this month. To reflect the ferocity of this apex predator, researchers gave it the apt name: Thanatotheristes degrootorum which means “Reaper of death” in Greek.
“We chose a name that embodies what this tyrannosaur was as the only known large apex predator of its time in Canada, the reaper of death,” Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor of Dinosaur Palaeobiology at Canada’s University of Calgary.
Thanatos dates back at least 79 million years, and while they were at the top of the food chain, there weren’t many of them.
This expert killer is described as having long, deep snout, steak-knife-like teeth that were more than 6.8 cm long and was around 8 meters long.
The bones, which had been discovered in 2010 near Canada’s Bow River, were left in a museum drawer until Ph.D student, Jared Voris, recognised the specimens as a new species of tyrannosaur.
Voris says that he knew Thanatos was a new kind of tyrannosaur because of distinct characteristics on the creature’s skull, the most prominent of which are ridges along the entirety of the upper jaw.
Researchers said they went with such an attention-grabbing name to fall in-line with other edgy names given to fellow dinosaurs in the Tyrannosaurus family.
Image: Julius Csotonyi/The University of Calgary and Royal Tyrrell Museum