Ancient dinosaur bones from what is believed to have been the oldest relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex have been unearthed in Brazil. Nicknamed the “godfather” of the Tyrannosaurus rex, the remains belonged to a species called Erythrovenator that lived about 230 million years ago.
Dinosaur bones from that far back are very rare. In fact, it is believed that the Erythrovenator was the first ever meat-eating dinosaur that lived on Earth.
The remains, that included a thigh bone, were unearthed at a farm in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. Based on analysis of the bones, the Erythrovenator would have grown to about six and a half feet in length. It had extremely sharp claws and teeth, in addition to being covered in bristles.
Dr. Rodrigo Muller, who is a palaeontologist from the Federal University of Santa Maria, Brazil, explained that even though the Erythrovenator was quite small compared to other dinosaurs, it was still considered to be an alpha predator that ate mostly insects, lizards, and other prehistoric mammals. “It was a fast and vicious hunter, with strong leg muscles. The animal had sharp and blade-like teeth, like other early theropods. We believe its skin had feather-like structures,” he said.
Dr. Muller went on to say, “This is the lineage of scary and carnivorous dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor of Jurassic Park fame,” adding, “But the Erythrovenator was around almost 150 million years before them. It comes from the dawn of the dinosaur age.” The Erythrovenator has been called a miniature Tyrannosaurus rex with traits similar to those of a Velociraptor and a Spinosaurus.
And researchers have very little evidence of a predator to the Erythrovenator. “So far, the only evidence from the site of an animal that may have eaten Erythrovenator is an isolated large tooth. It probably belongs to a big, primitive crocodile,” Dr. Muller stated.
Another interesting discovery was that other animal fossils were recovered near the Erythrovenator and they belonged to species that the dinosaur would have feasted on such as a cynodont. Cynodonts were mammal-like reptiles (they looked like a scaly rat) that were quite small (smaller than a loaf of bread) and lived in Brazil approximately 235 million years ago. Its pointy, upper-canine-like teeth indicated that it probably ate insects.
Pictures of the site where the bones were found as well as what the Erythrovenator would have looked like hundreds of millions of years ago can be seen here.