New Mexico Fossil Unveils Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis: T. rex’s Earliest Relative in North America

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A recent study published in Scientific Reports has shed new light on the origins of the renowned Tyrannosaurus rex in North America. The research focuses on a newly discovered subspecies of tyrannosaur called Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis, which is believed to be older and more primitive than its famous relative. The study, based on a partial skull found in western New Mexico, indicates that T. rex arrived in North America much earlier than previously thought.

The implications of this discovery are far-reaching. It challenges existing notions about the evolutionary journey of the T. rex and its presence in North America. The findings suggest that the apex predator lived in what is now the southern United States at least 72 million years ago, preceding the first T. rex fossils found in the same region. This raises questions about how the species migrated and evolved on the continent.

The research team, comprised of scientists from the University of Bath, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, the University of Utah, and other institutions, meticulously analyzed the newly discovered tyrannosaur specimen. Subtle differences between this specimen and previously found T. rex skeletons indicate that it represents a distinct species.

The newly identified T. mcraeensis is an imposing creature, comparable in size to its more famous relative. With a length of up to 40 feet and a height of 12 feet, it was a formidable meat-eating predator. However, the paper notes that the differences in its jaw bones make it unlikely to be a direct ancestor of the T. rex.

Dr. Nick Longrich, a co-author of the study from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, explains that these subtle differences are a result of the slow accumulation of mutations over millions of years. This highlights the complexity of species evolution and the need for further exploration to uncover more hidden dinosaur treasures.

The significance of these findings extends beyond the field of paleontology. The research indicates that southern North America was a hotbed of dinosaur activity and reveals that larger, more advanced species evolved in this region compared to their smaller, primitive counterparts in Montana and Canada. It also suggests that the spread of giant horned dinosaurs in the north created a food source that supported the emergence of giant tyrannosaurs.

As more discoveries are made, our understanding of these ancient creatures continues to evolve. The rich fossil record in New Mexico demonstrates the state’s importance in unraveling the mysteries of dinosaur evolution. Dr. Spencer Lucas, Paleontology Curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, emphasizes the potential for future dinosaur discoveries both in geological formations and museum collections.

In conclusion, the study’s examination of the newly discovered T. mcraeensis provides valuable insights into the origins and evolutionary patterns of the iconic T. rex in North America. These findings challenge existing timelines and highlight the complex nature of dinosaur evolution. Further research and exploration in New Mexico and beyond will undoubtedly contribute to our understanding of these fascinating creatures that once roamed the Earth.