This week, we’re shining our spotlight on the imposing Albertosaurus, one of T. rex’s best-known cousins.
1. It Was one of Several North American Tyrannosaurs.
Millions of years before Tyrannosaurus rex showed up, smaller relatives like Alaska’s Nanuqsaurus, New Mexico’s Bistahieversor, and Utah’s Teratophoneus—whose excellent name means “monstrous murderer”—terrorized the continent.
2. Some Speculate that Albertosaurus Traveled in Packs.
It’s flat-out impossible to fully ascertain an extinct animal’s social norms on the basis of nothing but fossilized bones. With that being said, Albertosaurus skeletons have been found in large groups, prompting a few paleontologists to wonder if these 30-foot carnivores were potential pack-hunters.
3. Albertosaurus Bit Each Other’s Faces
Deep, tell-tale scars reveal that Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus would not only bite other members of their own species, but occasionally target a very specific region while doing so: namely, the facial area. One especially-unlucky Albertosaurus managed to survive after having a rival chomp down on its lower jaw twice!
4. Albertosaurus’ Ancestors Migrated From Asia
The earliest tyrannosauroids—which evolved in or near modern-day China during the Jurassic period (199.6-145.5 million years ago)—were hardly intimidating. Feathery Dilong paradoxus, for example, would’ve been slightly over 6 feet long when fully grown. Yet, as this formerly-humble group gradually spread out across Asia, Europe, and the Americas, it produced some of the biggest predators our planet’s ever seen.
5. It Wasn’t the Only Dino Named After Alberta.
Albertaceratops (pictured above) and Albertonykus were also named for this dinosaur-rich Canadian province.
6. Albertosaurus’ Teeth Took a Beating.
Ripping through flesh can put a lot of pressure on your pearly whites. Dino tooth expert William Abler has hypothesized that, while feeding, a line of serrations on Albertosaurus teeth helped keep them from cracking.
7. We’ve Got Skin Impressions from Albertosaurus’ Closest Relative.
Pebbly, Gila monster-like scale impressions have been found in association with Gorosaurus libratus, a sleek carnivore from Montana and Western Canada that is so Albertosaurus-like that some scientists think it really belongs to the same genus.
8. Compared to T. rex, Albertosaurus Was Almost Petite.
Though Tyrannosaurus rex only stretched 10 to 12 feet longer than Albertosaurus, most estimates indicate that the bigger dino was significantly heavier. Adult “rexes” are generally thought to have weighed in at 5 to 7 tons. Slender Albertosaurus, on the other hand, likely maxed out at 2 to 3.
9. Juveniles Were Seemingly Built for Speed.
Leggy young Albertosaurus had proportionately lengthier hind limbs than mature specimens, indicating that they could’ve far out-paced older rivals [PDF].
10. A Long-Lost Albertosaurus Bone Bed was Rediscovered 86 Years Later.
Finding several large, predatory dinosaurs at the same site qualifies as a major-league discovery. So when fossil-hunting rock star Barnum Brown plucked nine Albertosaurus skeletons from a mass graveyard in 1910, it was a pretty big deal. But the explorer never recorded his treasure trove’s whereabouts for posterity’s sake. For 86 years, scientists could only imagine what other wonders it might yet yield.
But four photographs did survive, and in 1996, paleontologist Phil Currie used these snapshots to finally relocate Brown’s mysterious site. And the good news didn’t stop there: The bones of as many as 26 individual Albertosaurus were found lying in wait.