|Reconstructed skeleton at the Dinokingdom exhibition, Tokyo|
Nesbitt et al. 2019
Suskityrannus (meaning "coyote tyrant", suski meaning "coyote" in Zuni) is a genus of small tyrannosauroid theropod from the Late Cretaceous of southern Laramidia. It contains a single species, Suskityrannus hazelae, believed to have lived roughly 92 million years ago. The type fossil specimen was found in the Turonian-age Moreno Hill Formation of the Zuni Basin in western New Mexico.
The two specimens of Suskityrannus stood roughly 1 m (3 ft) tall and 3 m (9 ft) long and likely weighed between 20 to 40 kg (45 to 90 pounds). Both are likely to have been juveniles. One of the specimens was concluded to be 3 years old based on bone rings. The skull of Suskityrannus and its foot are more slender than other tyrannosaurs. The species already possesses many key features of the tyrannosaurid body plan, including the phylogenetically earliest record of an arctometatarsalian foot in tyrannosauroids, Suskityrannus could have also had feathers.
Discovery and naming
First mentioned as a small dromaeosaurid by Wolfe and Kirkland (1998) in their description of Zuniceratops, It was informally referred to as the "Zuni coelurosaur", "Zuni tyrannosaur", and "Zunityrannus" prior to its scientific description. The name Zunityrannus was used for the creature when it was featured in the documentary Planet Dinosaur, where it was shown to be a pack hunter and cannibal based on speculative tyrannosaur traits. The original fossils were found by a native Mesa teen, a young Sterling Nesbitt, who was a museum volunteer who came to a dig with the paleontologist Doug Wolfe. In 2019 it was formally described as a genus of primitive tyrannosauroid. Both the holotype specimen MSM P4754 (partially articulated skull and a few postcranial bones) and the paratype specimen MSM P6178 (partially articulated and associated remains including a few skull bones and an incomplete postcranial skeleton) are preserved in the collections of the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
Below is the phylogenetic analysis on the placement of Suskityrannus.
The area in New Mexico of where Suskityrannus lived was a fossil rich area. It was a transition period between the early Cretaceous fauna and the latest Cretaceous fauna. The area was a lush, green, wet, and dense with dinosaurs. This formation would have been a gulf coast with rain and heavy amounts of vegetation.The area would have had a lot of magnolia trees growing and would be a very thick forested place. A few other taxa like Zuniceratops, Nothronychus and a few specimens of Jeyawati are known from this region. The formation contained a still yet to be named ankylosaurid dinosaur. The description of Suskityrannus filled the major phylogenetic, morphological and temporal gaps that researchers needed to piece together tyrannosauroid evolution. Douge Wolfe noted that the Brain of Suskityrannus was pretty large compared to its body plan.
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