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illustration of teenage Sterling Nesbitt on archaeological dig with Suskityrannus hazelae in foreground

A new mini-Tyrannosaurus rex discovered by Sterling Nesbitt makes international news

What were you doing at age 16? Working at the local grocery or fast food joint?

Back in 1998, a teenage Sterling Nesbitt discovered the fossils of what would turn out to be a new relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex — much smaller than the huge, ferocious dinosaur made famous in countless books and films.

It took nearly 20 years to identify and name the new creature, but Suskityrannus hazelae stood roughly 3 feet tall at the hip and was about 9 feet in length, with the entire animal only marginally longer than just the skull of a fully-grown Tyrannosaurus rex. The fossil dates back 92 million years, in the Cretaceous Period, a time when some of the largest dinosaurs ever lived. “Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet,” Nesbitt said. “It also belongs to a dinosaurian fauna that just precedes the iconic dinosaurian faunas in the latest Cretaceous that include some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as the Triceratops [and] predators like Tyrannosaurus rex.”

When Nesbitt — now an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences — and his team of international paleontologists announced the discovery in May, the world took notice. Hundreds of media outlets — from The New York Times to The Washington Post to CNN and BBC News — reported on the discovery. And the Twitter account of Jurassic World took note, too. “This newly discovered dinosaur has the need for speed,” posted the account behind the Jurassic Park sequels.

Maybe Suskityrannus will chase actor Chris Pratt during a scene in Jurassic World 3? That begs the question, what would be worse: being chased by 10 tiny T-Rexes or one giant T-Rex?

For further reading and a video on this historic discovery, visit Virginia Tech paleontologist finds, names new 3-foot-tall relative of Tyrannosaurus rex

artist's rendition of Suskityannus rex walking during Cretaceous Period with trees and 2 Triceratops in background