The Tyrannosaurus was first identified over a century ago, and paleontologists have long thought of the dinosaur as one species: the mighty T. rex that terrified children everywhere when Jurassic Park hit the big screen in 1993. However, a new study claims that what we call the Tyrannosaurus might be three distinct species of dinosaur.
The research paper, published Tuesday in Evolutionary Biology, examines the variations found in about three dozen different Tyrannosaurus fossils. The analysis conducted by the trio of researchers “favors multiple species” of Tyrannosaurus rather than just one. They’ve dubbed the two new species T. imperator, or “tyrant lizard emperor,” and T. regina, or “tyrant lizard queen.”
However, other paleontologists don’t agree with the researchers’ findings.
“Ultimately, to me, this variation is very minor and not indicative of meaningful biological separation of distinct species that can be defined based on clear, explicit, consistent differences,” said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at University of Edinburgh, quoted by Reuters.
While the paper, and the new Tyrannosaurus species it poses, have not gone over well with the scientific community, the controversy illuminates the fact that identifying new species is often less clear-cut than it may seem.
“It is a concern that this will be controversial because of the charismatic status of T. rex, but on the other hand the study would not be getting so much attention otherwise,” said independent paleontologist Gregory Paul, the paper’s lead author.
Museum curators who oversee Tyrannosaurus specimens have also said they won’t rename the specimens based on the new research.