This Tiny Tyrannosaur Terrorized Earth Long Before Its Big Brother T. Rex

A pint-sized raptor covered in feathers roamed North America 100 million years ago.

A tiny tyrannosaur was discovered in Utah. It was covered in feathers. (Jorge Gonzalez/YouTube)

Newly discovered fossils of a tiny tyrannosaur have been discovered, filling in some some gaps between the two extremes of the raptors.

The dinosaur, thought to have lived almost 100 million years ago during the Cretaeous period, has been named Moros intrepidus, which means “harbinger of doom.”It is the oldest Cretaceous period tyrannosaur found in North America, CNN reports. 

This new pint-sized raptor predates the more common—and much larger—T. rex fossils that date back to roughly 80 millions years ago.

Previously, medium-sized T. rex bones from the Jurassic period—about 150 million years ago—had been discovered, but nothing as small as these new tyrannosaur fossils had been found until now.

“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,” Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University and study’s lead author, said in a statement. “When and how quickly tyrannosaurs went from wallflower to prom king has been vexing paleontologists for a long time. The only way to attack this problem was to get out there and find more data on these rare animals.”

Zanno’s team found the fossils in Utah after searching for almost a decade. Among the fossils discovered were a femur, tibia, and parts of a foot.

As an adult, Moros stood between three and four feet tall, and weighed around 170 pounds.

“Moros was lightweight and exceptionally fast,” Zanno explained. “These adaptations, together with advanced sensory capabilities, are the mark of a formidable predator. It could easily have run down prey, while avoiding confrontation with the top predators of the day.”

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