Small but mighty T-Rex Relative discovered by NC scientists

NC scientists discover previously unknown (and small!) dinosaur

March 8, 2018 

Remains of a lightweight, fast-moving relative of the T-Rex found in Utah

It turns out there are a lot of dinosaurs to be discovered yet, and a team from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh has a found a small and mighty one. The new dinosaur is named Moros Intrepidus—which means “harbinger of doom”—after the Greek god Moros. It’s a relative of the much larger Tyrannosaurus Rex and provides some insight into dinosaur evolution.

Moros stood about three to four feet tall at its hip. It lived about 96 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. “Moros was lightweight and exceptionally fast,” said Lindsay Zanno, the head of paleontology at the museum and a paleontologist at North Carolina State University.

“The adaptations, together with advanced sensory capabilities are the mark of a formidable predator. It could have easily run down prey all the while avoiding confrontations with the top predators of the day.”

Zanno and her team discovered most of the dinosaurs right leg and some teeth that could also belong to a Moros in Utah. The remains were first spotted in 2012 but it took years to excavate them and compare the bones to other fossils to confirm they belonged to a new species.

The Moros fossils are the oldest Cretaceous tyrannosaur species discovered in North America. The remains of its closest relative have been found in parts of Asia. Tyrannosaurs didn’t rule the dinosaur landscape as top predators until the Cretaceous period about 81 million years ago. The discovery of Moros helps bridge the fossil gap and now scientists believe it only took about 15 million years for tyrannosaurs to rise to power.

“When and how quickly tyrannosaurs went from wallflower to prom king has been vexing paleontologists for a long time,” said Zanno.

—Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.