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Off TopicFeb 10, 2020 3:00 pm CT

Off-Topic: The Reaper of Death is the most metal-sounding dinosaur ever

I live in Alberta. It is my adopted home, and it has provided me life saving medical care and helped me retain what vision I have been able to. And yet, I am never happier than when my province discovers a new dinosaur and gives it a name that should be a Black Metal band from Norway. One of the coolest things about the province is the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a place I’ve sadly only been able to visit once. Recently, they’ve announced the discovery of the first new Tyrannosauridae in fifty years, Thanatotheristes degrootorum.

That mouthful of a name means Reaper of Death or Death Reaper, and guys, tell me that doesn’t sound like they’re going to release an album entitled The Destiny of your Suffering soon. But it’s not a band — yet! I’m sure someone is already making the T-Shirts. But even cooler is the big Tyrannosaurid predator that the paleontologists at the Royal Tyrrell have discovered here.

Also, to whoever wrote the subtitle in this articleThanatotheristes was not a lizard. I mean, come on, my friend.

Thanatotheristes was rather a large theropod — at an estimated eight meters, it’s not Tyrannosaurus Rex but it’s comparable to its relatives Albertosaurus and Daspletosaurus. What’s really amazing about the find of the jaw fossil of Thanatotheristes degrootorum, besides the fact that it was found by a avid amateur dinosaur hunter and afterwards named in honor of him (which is like, my dream), is that this dinosaur is significantly older than any previously discovered Canadian Tyrannosaurid. At 79.5 million years old, it’s two and a half million years older than its close relatives Albertosaurus and Daspletosaurus, and the fact that it’s still such a big carnivore so far back teaches us still more about how the tyrants evolved. If you remember last year’s Suskityrannus discovery, this discovery helps us narrow the window more accurately as to when Tyrannosauridae made the leap to massive size. Thanatotheristes was already a multi-ton carnivore by 79.5 million years ago, so clearly the leap to massive size was well underway.

This is so exciting for so many reasons. The first new Tyrannosaur discovered in Canada in fifty years, the first big Tyrannosaur of that time period, the oldest one found, a distinctive fossil with skull ridges and a name that makes me want to howl some lyrics about the black travesty of existence. Kudos to everyone at the Royal Tyrrell, especially graduate student Jared Voris of the University of Calgary. This is a huge deal for him to have this paper out under his name at so early in his career. It’s just great.

Reaper of Death. Man. That is a name, my friends.

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