The new dinosaur, dubbed Suskityrannus hazelae, was found by Virginia Tech paleontologist Sterling Nesbitt in New Mexico 1998. Nesbitt, who is now an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Geosciences, was a 16-year-old high school student when he found the fossil during a New Mexico dig expedition.For almost 20 years, however, experts did not realize the importance of the discovery. “Essentially, we didn’t know we had a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex for many years,” Nesbitt said, in a statement. Initially, researchers thought they had the remains of a dromaeosaur, such as Velociraptor.An artist’s impression of Suskityrannus hazelae.
The last non-avian dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, according to National Geographic.
Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet,” Nesbitt said, in the statement. “It also belongs to a dinosaurian fauna that just proceeds the iconic dinosaurian faunas in the latest Cretaceous that include some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as the Triceratops, predators like Tyrannosaurus rex, and duckbill dinosaurs like Edmotosaurus.”
In another project, paleontologists recently discovered a new spike-armored dinosaur in Texas. Paleontologists in Canada have also touted the discovery of the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex.Walt Bonner and Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this article.