Nanotyrannus (Burpee Museum of Natural History).


Nanotyrannus (Greek for "tiny tyrant"); pronounced NAH-no-tih-RAN-us


Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 17 feet long and half a ton



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; forward-facing eyes; sharp teeth

About Nanotyrannus

When the skull of Nanotyrannus ("tiny tyrant") was discovered in 1942, it was identified as belonging to another dinosaur, Albertosaurus--but upon closer study, researchers (including the famous maverick Robert Bakker) speculated that it might have been left by an entirely new genus of tyrannosaur. Today, opinion is divided into two camps: some paleontologists believe Nanotyrannus indeed deserves its own genus, while others insist that it's a juvenile of Tyrannosaurus Rex, or some other established tyrannosaur genus. Further complicating matters, it's possible that Nanotyrannus wasn't a tyrannosaur at all, but a dromaeosaur (the class of small, carnivorous, bipedal dinosaurs better known to the general public as raptors).

Usually, additional fossil specimens help to clarify matters, but no such luck with Nanotyrannus. In 2011, word leaked out about the discovery of a complete Nanotyrannus specimen, unearthed in close proximity to an unidentified ceratopsian (horned, frilled dinosaur). This has led to all kinds of fruitless speculation: did Nanotyrannus hunt in packs to bring down larger prey? Were its unusually long hands (rumored to be even longer than those of the full-grown T. Rex specimen Tyrannosaurus Sue) a unique adaptation to its ecosystem? The trouble is that this putative Nanotyrannus specimen, nicknamed "Bloody Mary," remains in private hands, and has not been made available for expert analysis.