By Alison Fox
February 11, 2020

An entirely new species of dinosaur was recently discovered in Canada with experts saying it may be one of the oldest tyrannosaur species ever discovered in North America and the first to be found in Canada in 50 years.

According to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, fossil skull fragments of the tyrannosaur, Thanatotheristes degrootorum, were discovered by a farmer and paleontology enthusiast in the southern part of the province of Alberta while he was hiking near Hays, about 150 miles southeast of Calgary. The findings were published in a study last month in the Cretaceous Research journal by researchers from the museum and the University of Calgary.

Thanatotheristes degrootorum upper jaw
Credit: Courtesy of Travel Alberta

“Alberta has a rich dinosaur history, and we have uncovered some of the biggest finds on Earth here in the province,” Dr. François Therrien, the curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, said in a statement. “The discovery of Thanatotheristes degrootorum is historic as it marks the first new species of tyrannosaur to be unearthed in Canada in 50 years. The last tyrannosaur described from Canada was Daspletosaurus in 1970.”

illustration of Thanatotheristes degrootorum
Credit: Courtesy of Travel Alberta

The new tyrannosaur species is estimated to be about 79.5 million years old — or about 2.5 million years older than its closest relative, according to the museum. This particular species was 26.2 to 30 feet long and weighed about two tons when it was fully grown.

“The jawbone was an absolutely stunning find,” John De Groot, the farmer who found the fossils, said in a statement. “We knew it was special because you could clearly see the fossilized teeth.”

Thanatotheristes degrootorum upper jaw
Credit: Courtesy of Travel Alberta

When they lived, tyrannosaurs (including the Tyrannosaurus rex) were large predatory theropod dinosaurs. The Tyrannosaurus rex could reach up to more than 39 feet in length.

According to the museum, most dinosaurs that lived in the area date between 77 and 66 million years old.

While we can’t promise that you’ll find dinosaur fossils strolling through Alberta, the Dinosaur Provincial Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) does offer visitors the chance to see where important fossil discoveries were made.