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Tyrannosaur Ancestor Found In Valley County

An early link in the evolutionary development of the Tyrannosaurus family has been found in Valley County.

According to a recently published research paper by Montana State University student Elias Warshaw and Badlands Dinosaur Museum curator Denver Fowler, a new species of dinosaur has been found.

Daspletosaurus wilsoni (Wilson’s frightful reptile) is transitional in form and age between D. torosus and D. horneri, two other stages of Tyrannosaur development.

Researchers say this suggests that Daspletosaurus underwent linear evolution, with one form evolving into the next without branching.

“We’re saying that instead of representing three different branches off of the Tyrannosaur family tree, we think that they represent an ancestor descendant sequence,” Warshaw told area media.

A press release from the museum states: “The new species displays a mix of features found in more primitive Tyrannosaurs from older rocks, like a prominent set of horns around the eye, as well as features otherwise known from later members of this group (including T. rex), like a tall eye socket and expanded air-pockets in the skull.”

The press release states that researches believe D. wilsoni is a “missing link” between older and younger Tyrannosaur.

“The new study supports the addition of Tyrannosaurs to a growing list of dinosaurs for which linear evolution has been proposed.”

According to the press release, museum crew member Jack Wilson found a small, flat piece of bone near the base of a cliff in a geological deposition known as the Judith River Formation that turned out to be from the middle part of the nostril of a Tyrannosaur. That discovery was made in 2017.

The museum found four Tyrannosaur sites in the area in 2017, amounting to what researchers say appears to be a mostly complete skeleton.

Other noteworthy fossils discovered in the region include Leonardo, a duckbill dinosaur (Brachylophosaurus canadensis) found in neighboring Phillips County in 2001.

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