STEVE BRUSATTE - I've been anxiously awaiting the first Walking with Dinosaurs trailer since I began consulting with BBC Earth nearly a year ago. Yesterday the trailer was finally released - and after seeing it, I can't imagine anybody not getting excited about the movie!
The trailer has generated a lot of buzz, but also some questions. And this question about the large carnivorous dinosaur that appears in the trailer is a particularly good one. Just what is that dinosaur? It kind of looks like T. rex, but it also seems different.
The big, growling, flesh-hungry antagonist in the Walking with Dinosaurs 3D movie is a theropod dinosaur called Gorgosaurus. If it seems a bit like T. rex, that's because it is.
Gorgosaurus is a tyrannosaurid - a member of the same group of colossal, sharp-toothed carnivores that also includes Tyrannosaurus rex. It is one of the closest cousins of T. rex, and probably behaved in a similar manner.
Gorgosaurus lived in North America about 77-74 million years ago. This was a few million years before T. rex stalked the same environments. Like T. rex, Gorgosaurus was a large predator that had a muscular skull, thick teeth, puny forearms, and walked on two legs.
Both Gorgosaurus and T. rex were apex predators, meaning that they were the largest and fiercest meat-eaters in their ecosystems. They both fed on ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) and hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs). They both used their powerful jaws and banana-sized teeth to crunch through the bones of their prey. And they both probably hunted in packs.
But Gorgosaurus was different to T. rex in some important ways. First, it was smaller. Whereas T. rex grew to 13 metres in length and 5-6 tons in mass, Gorgosaurus was ‘merely’ 8-9 metres long and about two tons in mass.
Second, Gorgosaurus was a more slender, sleek and lightly built animal than T. rex. It wasn't quite as muscular, but it was capable of running faster.
If T. rex was an off-road jeep, then Gorgosaurus was a Formula One car!
T. rex certainly remains the most feared and iconic dinosaur of all. But I suspect that the new Walking with Dinosaurs film will introduce a new monster into our nightmares: the smart, sleek, stealthy Gorgosaurus.
- Steve Brusatte is the resident palaeontologist on Walking with Dinosaurs.