Suskityrannus (meaning "coyote tyrant", suski meaning "coyote" in Zuni) is a genus of small tyrannosauroid theropod from the Late Cretaceous in southern Laramidia. It contains a single species, Suskityrannus hazelae, believed to have lived roughly 92 million years ago. The type specimen was found in the Turonian-age Moreno Hill Formation of the Zuni Basin in New Mexico.
The two specimens of Suskityrannus stood roughly 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall and 3 metres (9.8 ft) long and likely weighed between 20–40 kilograms (44–88 lb). Both are likely to have been juveniles. One of the specimens is believed to have been 3 years old when it died, 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. Additionally, as an early tyrannosaur, Suskityrannus may have had feathers.
Doug Wolfe noted that the brain of Suskityrannus was relatively large compared to its body plan.
Discovery and naming
First mentioned as a small Dromaeosauridae by Wolfe and Kirkland in their description of Zuniceratops, Suskityrannus was informally referred to as the "Zuni basin coelurosaur", "Zuni basin tyrannosaur" and "Zunityrannus" prior to its scientific description.
The original fossils were found by Robert Denton, a professional geologist from Virginia, and a native Mesa teen Sterling Nesbitt, who was a museum volunteer that came to a dig with paleontologist Doug Wolfe. In 2019, Suskityrannus was formally described as a genus of primitive tyrannosauroid. .
The area in New Mexico where Suskityrannus lived is an area rich in fossils. The fossil record of the Moreno Hill Formation documents a transition period between early Cretaceous fauna and the latest Cretaceous fauna. The area was a thickly forested coastal region with a humid climate. Zuniceratops, Nothronychus, and a few specimens of Jeyawati are known from this region. The formation also contains a currently undescribed ankylosaurid dinosaur. Fossils of a crocodilian and a possible marine turtle belonging to the Cheloniidae, were also found in the same locality as well.
In the Media
- Suskityrannus (then unnamed) made its very first appearance in The 2001 Discovery Channel documentary When Dinosaurs Roamed America. Both the dromeosaurids AKA the Raptors and the small coelurosaurs were seen in this documentary belong to the species, as the documentary was made before Suskityrannus was found to be one of the early tyrannosaurid in North America. The first appearance of the coelurosaur morph is an individual running through the forest before the pack of dromeosaurid morphs were seen. Later on, one is catching a fish. Another tries to steal the fish, but it fails and is chased away. They also are seen running around during the fire.
- Suskityrannus (the unnamed) made another appearance in the sixth episode of the 2011 BBC Documentary Planet Dinosaur “The Great Survivors”. As the genus was unnamed at the time, it was referred to as "Zunityrannus" in this episode. A lone individual was first seen drinking from a lake. It then came across a Nothronychus, and attempted to attack the herbivore, however the therizinosaur swiped the tyrannosaur in the face and successfully warded it off. The lone tyrannosaur then turned its attention to carrion. The carcass contained a deadly virus, the pathogenic bacteria Chlostridium botulinum, which killed the dinosaur. Later, a larger pack of three tyrannosaurs appeared and walked past its dead member. They then started hunting a pair of Nothronychus, however using their enormous claws the therizinosaurs were able to defend themselves. Despite this, one of the members of the pack managed to bite one of the herbivores necks. The pack then backed down and began to cannibalize on the dead tyrannosaur, not being aware that it also contained the deadly pathogen. The theropods then contracted the virus and died as well, as was later seen when a Nothronychus walked past and saw their rotting bodies near the lake.