UTAH - Scientists in Utah say they have discovered Tyrannosaurus rex's "great-uncle," a massive predator with a thick skull and large teeth dubbed the "king of gore."
Bones of the 24-foot (7.3-meter) -long dinosaur, slightly smaller than T. rex and older by about 10 million years, were unveiled at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, and an announcement of the species discovery was published in the scientific journal Plos One.
Scientists hope the find will help them better understand the ecosystem where the predator roamed.
Discovered by workers for the Federal Bureau of Land Management in eastern Utah in 2009, scientists named the animal Lythronax argestes, or "king of gore," for its large teeth and apparent dominance as a predator.
"Discovering the Lythronax pushes back the evolution of the group that gives rise to T. rex, which is something we didn't understand before," said Mark Loewen, a geologist at the University of Utah, who led the dig for the new dinosaur."Lythronax is like the great-uncle of T. rex."
Paleontologists have thought that members of the group with characteristics like T. rex - large bodies, tiny arms, thick skulls and forward facing eyes - dated as far back as 70 million years, but the Lythronax shows signs of being at least 80 million years old.
Like its relative, the Lythronax is believed to have been the top predator of its time, roaming a stretch of land from Mexico to Alaska, including parts of Utah, during the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous period.