Tiny T. rex relative identified

Tiny T Rex

Tiny T Rex

The study's lead author, Sterling Nesbitt, a paleontologist at Virginia Tech in the USA, said that the fossils of the smaller T. rex cousin could provide one of the best examples yet as to how a smaller family of dinosaurs evolved into monstrous super predators.

Nesbitt says he first discovered an incomplete skeleton of Suskityrannus hazelae in New Mexico in 1997, and another, more complete, sample in 1998.

The newly discovered dinosaur, called Suskityrannus hazelae, is estimated to have weighed anywhere between 45 to 90 pounds (20 to 40 kilograms).

Nesbitt's discovery came on land once populated by the Native American tribe.

The specimen Nesbitt found is so complete, it's helping researchers learn about this wee tyrannosaur, which predates T. rex by about 25 million years.

This illustration shows a Suskityrannus hazelae, foreground, a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

The newly discovered cousin - which was three times longer than it was tall - weighed between 45 and 90 pounds, nearly nothing compared to the nine-tonne king of the dinosaurs.

A previously unknown tyrannosaur terrorized prey about 92 million years ago, but unlike its relative - the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex - this newfound dinosaur was a pipsqueak, its body just a tad longer than a T. rex skull.

Suskityrannus hazalae's size is what initially threw scientists for a loop back in 1998. It was only until other small tyrannosauroids were discovered that they began re-examining this important find, which Smithsonian Institution paleobiologist Hans Sues believes is "the first really good record of the early tyrannosaurs in North America".

Monday's report said that Suskityrannus hazelae provides an intermediate link between older, smaller tyrannosaurs and the very big, last-surviving members of the species. Nesbitt and a team of paleontologists unearthed Teleocrater Rhadinus fossils in 2017 on a dig in Tanzania. If it stretched its duck-billed head, an adult human maybe "would be looking at it in the eye", said Sterling Nesbitt, a paleontologist at Virginia Tech, who discovered the dinosaur. He found some of the original fossils when he was 17 years old.