This species was much smaller than T. rex. Image Credit: Jorge Gonzalez / North Carolina State University
A pint-sized relative of the tyrant lizard dating back 96 million years has been unearthed in North America.
Found in Utah, the newly discovered species is helping palaeontologists to piece together the tyrannosaur fossil record between the Jurassic Era and the end of the Cretaceous.
"With a lethal combination of bone-crunching bite forces, stereoscopic vision, rapid growth rates, and colossal size, tyrant dinosaurs reigned uncontested for 15 million years leading up to the end-Cretaceous extinction - but it wasn't always that way," said palaeontologist Lindsay Zanno.
"Early in their evolution, tyrannosaurs hunted in the shadows of archaic lineages such as allosaurs that were already established at the top of the food chain."
Given its role as an early forerunner of Tyrannosaurus rex and other giant tryannosaurs, the new species has been named Moros intrepidus which literally translates to "harbinger of doom".
"When and how quickly tyrannosaurs went from wallflower to prom king has been vexing paleontologists for a long time," said Zanno.
"The only way to attack this problem was to get out there and find more data on these rare animals."