Nicknamed Scotty, the record-breaking Tyrannosaurus Rex is the biggest dinosaur skeleton ever found.
With a weight averaging 8.8 tons, paleontologists have excavated the fossilized remains of what is considered the largest T-Rex on Earth.
The ‘Rex’ of ‘Rexes’ lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan some 66 million years ago and measured 13 meters, according to University of Alberta paleontologists.
“This is the rex of rexes,” explained Scott Persons, a U of A paleontologist who led a study on the once formidable dinosaur, nicknamed Scotty.
“There is considerable size variability among Tyrannosaurus. Some individuals were lankier than others and some were more robust. Scotty exemplifies the robust. (He) comes out a bit heftier than other T-Rex specimens.”
Paleontologists have revealed it had massive leg bones indicating it had a living weight of more than 8,800 kilograms, which is much larger than all other carnivorous dinosaurs.
Although exact details about Scotty were only recently revealed by scientists from the University of Alberta, the specimen was actually discovered in 1991.
The Dinosaur’s skeleton was encased in sandstone and it took experts more than a decade to clean.
Only recently, and after years of putting Scotty back together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle were paleontologists able to study the specimen, revealing its massive size.
Scotty is the oldest T-Rex known,” Persons explained.
By which I mean, it would have had the most candles on its last birthday cake. You can get an idea of how old a dinosaur is by cutting into its bones and studying its growth patterns. Scotty is all old growth
Experts estimate that the gigantic dinosaur was around 30 years of age when it died.
By Tyrannosaurus standards, it had an unusually long life. And it was a violent one,” Persons revealed. “Riddled across the skeleton are pathologies—spots where scarred bone records large injuries.
As noted by experts, a new exhibit featuring the skeleton of Scotty is set to open at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in May 2019.
Actually no – at least, not according to Professor Gerta Keller.
Far from being some crackpot with a whacky theory she read on the internet and decided to push, Professor Keller has worked as a Professor of Paleontology and Geology in the Geosciences Department of Princeton University since 1984.
And Professor Keller is adamant that it was not a massive asteroid – said in 2010 by a panel of 41 experts to have been 10 kilometres wide, which slammed into the planet with “about a billion times more energy than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima” – that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct.
“It’s like a fairy tale: ‘Big rock from sky hits the dinosaurs, and boom they go.’ And it has all the aspects of a really nice story,” Professor Keller told The Atlantic.
“It’s just not true.”
So what does the professor propose really happened to the dinosaurs?
Specifically, Professor Keller is of the belief the Deccan Traps, in modern day India, were the cause of the mass extinction – which sounds kind of cute compared to an asteroid with the force of a billion atom bombs until you get into the nitty-gritty of it.
Professor Keller compared the Deccan Traps eruptions to that which occurred at Iceland’s Laki volcano in the 18th century.
Starting on June 8, 1783, and continuing until early February 1784, the Laki eruption was one of the largest in recorded history, with Benjamin Franklin noting its effects over North America.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “The vast quantities of sulfurous gases stunted crops and grasses and killed most of the domestic animals in Iceland; the resulting Haze Famine eventually killed about one-fifth of Iceland’s population.”
Yet that crazy outcome is not even a blip next to Deccan.
“But that’s just a short-term event from a relatively minor eruption, compared with Deccan,” Keller said, and that Deccan was “thousands of times larger”.
“And then you repeat that over and over again. For basically 350,000 years before the massive die-off,” she said.
She added, “Shit hits the fan for the last 40,000 years. The eruptions really took off. Huge. Absolutely huge. That’s when we have the longest lava flows on Earth, into the Bay of Bengal.”
For the record, that’s a flow of almost 1000 kilometres – roughly the distance from Sydney to Brisbane.
However, it’s not the lava that led to all the death and destruction, but the huge levels of sulphur spewing into the atmosphere, causing acid rain and eventually a huge heating of the entire planet.
“You just replace Deccan volcanism’s effect with today’s fossil-fuel burning,” Professor Keller said. “It’s exactly the same.”
Now, if you think that high school or social media are the only places where having a dissenting opinion can get you ostracised, then you’ve never been in a scrap with a scientist.
People have called Professor Keller a “bitch”, “the most dangerous woman in the world” and said she “should be stoned and burned at the stake”.
It’s led to the disagreement to be known as the ‘Dinosaur Wars’ and – almost 40 years after they began – they show no signs of abating.
Here’s how ancient sea monsters got rid of all that salty seawater they swallowed while hunting in the deep, blue sea.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ancient sea monsters inadvertently swallowed mouthfuls of seawater whenever they gulped down prey, but they had a stealthy trick to get rid of all that salt.
Their secret? Salt-secreting glands, which removed any salt surpluses, Judy Massare, a professor emerita in the Earth Sciences Department at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, said here at a presentation today (Oct. 17) at the 78th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Massare helped locate these glands in ichthyosaurs — fearsome dolphin-like reptiles that lived during the dinosaur age.
Massare and her colleagues spotted evidence for the ichthyosaur’s salt-removing glands on either side of the prehistoric creature’s skull, just behind the external naris, the opening for breathing, she said. “When we saw odd structures in bones that border the external naris, we suspected that they were defining the position of a salt gland duct,” Massare told Live Science. [Image Gallery: Ancient Monsters of the Sea]
However, scientists weren’t sure if some ancient reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, also sported salt glands. Corroborating evidence suggested they did: fossilized hooklets from squid-like animals are often found in the ribs of ichthyosaurs, so it follows that these predators likely swallowed lots of seawater when guzzling these invertebrates, Massare said.
“That means a lot of salt was taken in and needed to be removed,” Massare said.
It wasn’t until a 2012 study in the journal Paludicolathat Bill Wahl, a paleontologist at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, identified evidence for the first salt glands on an ichthyosaur (Ophthalmosaurus natans) from Wyoming dating to the Jurassic period, which lasted from about 199 million to 145 million years ago. (It’s not odd to find fossilized sea creatures in the middle of America. This ichthyosaur once swam in a giant seaway that covered much of the U.S. Midwest and South from about 100 million to about 75 million years ago.)
Now, Massare, who is leading the new project, Wahl and their colleague Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester in England, have identified even more salt glands in other fossilized species, such as the Jurassic ichthyosaurs Ichthyosauruslarkiniand Ichthyosaurus somersetensis.
The research has yet to be published in a peer-review journal.
Granted, the research team hasn’t found the actual salt glands, which were made of soft tissue and didn’t fossilize. Rather, they found “previously unexplained projections on bones … indicating the position of a duct from a nasal salt gland,” Massare said.
This would have been a prime location for a salt gland duct. “As the ichthyosaur swam, salt water passing over the skull would be disrupted by the raised posterior edge of the naris, creating eddies that would flush out the back portion of the naris,” Massare said. “A concentrated salt solution could be carried away easily by the water as the ichthyosaur swam.”
The team has made a good case that that these bony structures might be evidence of salt glands, especially since the structures appear fairly consistent across different ichthyosaur species, said Takuya Konishi, an assistant professor-educator in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, who was not involved with the research.
However, the case would be strengthened if researchers were to find these structures in earlier, Triassic period ichthyosaurs, too, when these reptiles were first preserved in the fossil record. (Massare, for her part, said she has yet to extensively look for evidence of salt glands in Triassicspecimens.)
“The salt gland must have been evolved at the very beginning, at the time that they became marine,” Konishi said. “I would be very excited to see a follow-up study to further augment [this idea] by finding more osteological marks, even in these Triassic forms.”
Tyrannosaurs often bear fierce names. Aside from the “tyrant lizard” Tyrannosaurus itself, there’s the “monstrous murderer” Teratophoneus, the “frightful lizard” Daspletosaurus, and the “gore king” Lythronax. But a new set of tyrannosaur bones extracted from the 80-million-year-old rock of New Mexico may have one of the most imposing names of all—Dynamoterror dynastes, the “powerful terror ruler.”
The remains of Dynamoterror were found in New Mexico’s Menefee Formation in 2012 during an expedition led by Western Science Center paleontologist Andrew McDonald and CEO of the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences, Douglas Wolfe. During that year’s field season, expedition volunteer Eric Gutierrez found fragmented bones spilling out of the sandstone.* Dinosaurs are hard to find in this part of the San Juan Basin, making almost any find worth noting, but initial clues indicated that this find was something special.
“We could tell that it was a large theropod from the large fragments of hollow limb bones,” McDonald says, referring to the broader family that tyrannosaurs, ostrich-mimic dinosaurs, raptors, birds and others belong to.
Time had not been kind to the bones of Dynamoterror, breaking and scattering the bones. It took years of puzzling together the recovered shards before the critical fragments—a pair of telltale skull bones called frontals—were pieced together, revealing the fossil’s identity as a previously-unknown tyrannosaur. The dinosaur is described in a paper published today in PeerJ.
Although the fossil is scrappy, it still adds context to the broader picture of the roughly 25 distinct tyrannosaurs known so far. Not only is Dynamoterror new, but it falls in a specific tyrannosaur subgroup that contains some of the last and largest of the species, like T. rex itself.
T. rex lived between 68 and 66 million years ago, and many of its famous relatives—like Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus—lived about 75 million years ago. Dynamoterror and its relative Lythronax from Utah are more ancient still, about 80 million years old. “This indicates that derived tyrannosaurs must have arisen at an even earlier date” than previously expected, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science paleontologist Thomas Williamson says. The find points to an older, as-yet-unknown diversification of these famous carnivores.
In life, McDonald and colleagues hypothesize, Dynamoterror would have been about 30 feet long. Far larger than the earliest tyrannosaurs, though not quite as big as the celebrity T. rex, Dynamoterror is comparable in size to a few other tyrannosaurs of similar age—large enough to earn top predator status in its ancient realm.
Back in this tyrannosaur’s heyday, McDonald says, “the Menefee would have been much like the swamps and forest of the southeastern U.S.—hot, humid, and lush.” Shovel-beaked hadrosaurs, armored dinosaurs, and horned dinosaurs were some of the neighbors Dynamoterror rubbed shoulders with and likely preyed upon.
What makes Dynamoterror stand out, however, is that it’s another piece in an emerging picture of dinosaur evolution running riot between 80 and 75 million years ago. Back in the Late Cretaceous, North America was split in two by the Western Interior Seaway, a warm stretch of water that washed over the middle of the continent, with the western half known to experts as Laramidia. From the stony records of this subcontinent, paleontologists have been finding a slew of unexpected dinosaurs.
Historic finds in the northern parts of Laramidia, such as modern day Alberta and Montana, revealed rich communities of dinosaurs such as tyrannosaurs, horned dinosaurs, armored dinosaurs and more. Fossils found in southern rocks of the same age were often given the same names as the northern species. But in the past three decades, paleontologists have started to put together a very different picture. New discoveries and fossil revisions have shown that the dinosaurs found in Utah, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico were not the same as those found in the north. If you were to walk from Mexico to Alaska 80 million years ago, you’d find a gradient of different dinosaurs as you hiked along.
Dynamoterror is part of this story and an important one as it’s from an area with few known fossils. No dinosaurs had been named from the Menefee Formation until earlier this year when an armored dinosaur called Invictarx was identified. Dynamoterror is now the second, and the fact that it differs from other known tyrannosaurs of a similar age indicates that there were distinct evolutionary pockets along the length of the ancient subcontinent.
The new tyrannosaur also points to what may yet be found. Both Dynamoterror and Lythronax are from southern North America and are about 80 million years old. There seems to be a bias against the preservation of dinosaurs in rocks of this age, Williamson says, but the few and often scrappy fossils that have turned up have indicated that dinosaur diversity was just as rich as it was in the 75-million-year-old rocks where preservation is better. The search is taxing, but it means there are more dinosaurs to dig up.
Some of them will likely be tyrannosaurs. To the north, McDonald says, “roughly contemporaneous rocks have yet to produce diagnostic tyrannosaurid material.” It could very well be that there were other unusual tyrant lizards in northern Laramidia, now entombed in the rocks, waiting to be uncovered and help fill in the picture of how these tyrants came to rule North America.
*Editor’s Note, October 9, 2018: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Douglas Wolfe was the 2012 expedition volunteer who found the Dynamoterror bones, when, in fact, Douglas Wolfe co-led the 2012 expedition, and volunteer Eric Gutierrez found the fossil. The story has been edited to correct that fact.