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BLM Archaeologist Technician Discovers 'King of Gore' in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument


Bureau: Bureau of Land Management


Ten million years before the T. rex walked the earth, another monster reigned. The 80 million-year-old fossil of the Lythronax argestes or “King of Gore” was recently discovered by Scott Richardson, a Bureau of Land Management archaeologist technician at the Wahweap Formation in BLM-Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Lythronax, the largest carnivore in its ecosystem, was about 24 feet long and weighed about 2.5 tons.

Lythronax, the largest carnivore in its ecosystem, was about 24 feet long and weighed about 2.5 tons.

Lythronax is now the oldest known species of tyrannosaur and believed to be a close cousin to the T. rex. The back of its skull is wide and its eyes face forward, allowing it to see with overlapping fields of view (“binocular vision”) and providing an incredible advantage for a predator. Previously, scientists thought the T. rex was the first dinosaur to have this evolutionary advantage.

A bird’s-eye view of the Lythronax skeleton.
A bird’s-eye view of the Lythronax skeleton.

This sculpture is an artistic interpretation of what scientists believe Lythronax would have looked like. Relatives of the dinosaur had similar skin and protofeathers, and it is believed that Lythronax had these features too.

This sculpture is an artistic interpretation of what scientists believe Lythronax would have looked like. Relatives of the dinosaur had similar skin and protofeathers, and it is believed that Lythronax had these features, too.

Over the past 14 years, crews from GSENM, the Natural History Museum of Utah and several other partner institutions have uncovered skeletons of more than a dozen species of dinosaurs in the national monument. They have also found fossil plants, insect traces, fish, crocodiles, mammals and other signs of ancient life. Together, these fossils offer one of the world’s most comprehensive views into a Mesozoic ecosystem.

The discovery of Lythronax is exciting because it shows just how much we still have to learn about the world of dinosaurs. Because this dinosaur is so similar to the T. rex yet lived so long before it, its discovery hints to the fact that there are many species of tyrannosaur in the American Southwest yet to be found.

Scott Richardson, the BLM archaeologist technician who discovered the Lythronax skeleton, chats with guests at the opening of the fossil’s exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Scott Richardson, the BLM archaeologist technician who discovered the Lythronax skeleton, chats with guests at the opening of the fossil’s exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

A joint NHMU-GSENM team excavated the skeleton. Research on the dinosaur was largely funded by the BLM and the National Science Foundation. Lythronax is currently on display at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Visit the museum’s website for more information about the new dinosaur discovery and to watch a video about the find: http://nhmu.utah.edu/gore-king-southwest-lythronax-argestes.

Story by: Courtney Whiteman, public affairs specialist, BLM National Office; photos courtesy: Natural History Museum of Utah
Nov. 21, 2013