SCIENTISTS have identified a “Mini-Me” ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus rex — only 3ft tall.
It was 9ft long, little more than the length of its giant descendant’s skull, and weighed no more than 90lbs — compared to T rex’s nine tons.
SWNS:South West News Service Dr Sterling Nesbitt found the 92million-year-old fossil when he was just 16
Palaeontologist Sterling Nesbitt said of the 92 million-year-old find: “It gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet.”
He was a 16-year-old student when he found the fossil in New Mexico, US, in 1998, a year after a less complete one was discovered nearby.
The team first thought they may be remains of a velociraptor.
Sterling said: “We didn’t know what we had for many years.
SWNS:South West News Service The find was thought to be remains of a velociraptor but have now been identified and named Suskityrannus hazelae
“Suskityrannus has a much more slender skull and foot than its later and larger cousins, the Tyrannosaurus rex.
“The find also links the older and smaller tyrannosauroids from North America and China with the much larger tyrannosaurids that lasted until the final extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.”
It has now been identified and named Suskityrannus hazelae.
Dr Nesbitt — now an Assistant Professor at the Virginia Tech College of Science, said it died aged about three, measured around 3ft at the hip and hunted small animals.
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He said: “My discovery of a partial skeleton of Suskityrannus put me onto a scientific journey that has framed my career.”
The fossils show T-rex developed characteristics such as a muscular skull, broad mouth and shock-absorbing feet while small.
The findings were published online by journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
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