Back in the old days, walking to school uphill both ways through freezing blizzards, we had to content ourselves with the knowledge that the most fearsome of all dinosaurs was a giant meat-eater whose name translated to “King Of The Tyrant Lizards.” Now, in the modern world, old Tyrannosaurus Rex is looking a bit outdated by his newer, cooler recently-discovered cousin: A big nasty motherfucker called Thanatotheristes degrootorum or “reaper of death.”
Reapersaurus was dug up in Alberta, Canada, and, as reported by the CBC’s Emily Chung, was “as long as two cars lined up bumper to bumper” and “would have towered over an adult human,” standing “about 2.4 meters [just under 8 feet] tall at the hips.” The University Of Calgary PhD candidate who led the research, Jared Voris, believes the dinosaur dates back to the late Cretaceous period, 79 million years ago, which makes it the oldest species of tyrannosaur yet found in Canada. Voris began studying its bones, which were found by Albertan ranchers John and Sandra De Groot in 2010 and filed by the Royal Tyrrell Museum as “belonging to a tyrannosaur”, about two years ago.
After realizing that the fossils belonged to a new species, Voris “canvassed his colleagues” for name ideas, ending up with the hilarious “reaper of death” by the end of the process. (“Thanatotheristes” combines the names for “the Greek god of death Thanatos and the Greek word ‘theristes,’ which means ‘reaper’ or ‘harvester.’”) The less ominous back half of its name, “degrootorum,” pays homage to the De Groot ranchers who first discovered the fossils.
Voris describes the dinosaur as “an imposing creature in the ecosystem that it lived in,” saying that “it would very likely have been the apex predator.” Honoring the dreams of little kids the world over, he says “it was really nice to have some sort of name that encapsulated that kind of behavior.”
As good as that explanation is, it should be said that “reaper of death” is probably excessive. It makes us think that the dinosaur is trying a little bit too hard. T.Rex, as we all know, was a straightforward king; Thanatotheristes, on the other hand, conjures up the image of a big lizard in all black and a spiked dog collar, a pentagram tattooed on his back leg. A nice, simple name like “Theodore” or “Tammy” would’ve been just as catchy and underplayed its stubby, clawed hand better.
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