RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A decade of sifting through rocks in Utah paid off for a researcher at N.C. State University when she found fossils belonging to a new relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Moros intrepidus stood around three to four feet tall at the hip and lived 96 million years ago, N.C. State said. The much larger and more famous T. Rex dominated from 83.6 million years ago to 66 million years ago.
Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University, head of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Sciences, helped uncover teeth, femur, tibia, and parts of a foot of a Moros in modern-day Utah.
“We found this animal in 2012, we excavated in 2013. We went back in subsequent years to dig a bigger and bigger hole to see if there was more. And there was several years of meticulously piecing each bit of the fossil under a microscope,” Zanno said.
An area that was a lush environment when Moros lived.
“Moros was lightweight and exceptionally fast,” Zanno said. “These adaptations, together with advanced sensory capabilities, are the mark of a formidable predator. It could easily have run down prey, while avoiding confrontation with the top predators of the day.”
The name Moros intrepidus means “harbinger of doom.”
The fossils found are believed to have belonged to a 7-year-old Moros and was fully grown, N.C. State said.
Moros is the oldest Cretaceous tyrannosaur species discovered in North America so far.
“Although the earliest Cretaceous tyrannosaurs were small, their predatory specializations meant that they were primed to take advantage of new opportunities when warming temperatures, rising sea-level and shrinking ranges restructured ecosystems at the beginning of the Late Cretaceous,” Zanno said. “We now know it took them less than 15 million years to rise to power.”
Zanno said tyrannosaurs are believed to have rapid-growth rates and an extremely powerful bite force.