Photo by Adam Finkle
He's ugly in a big way. With a mouth-full of teeth the size and shape of railroad spikes and pre-targeting binocular vision, Lynthronax argestes is absolutely terrifying. And kids can't get enough of him.
Eighty million years ago, this voracious predator ruled the river bottoms of ancient Laramidia, in what is now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, where he ripped apart and devoured mini-van-sized horned and duck-billed vegetarians.
Now Lythronax has taken up residence at the Natural History Museum of Utah.
"Lythronax ate pretty much anything he could get in his mouth and that was pretty much everything," says Randall Irmis, NHMU's paleontology curator.
And for reasons no one likes to think about, humans—notably elementary school-aged males—are utterly obsessed with predators, especially ones that could scarf them down in one viscera-rending, bone-splintering bite.
"It's some sort of primal thing," Irmis muses. It's a survival thing. "You can understand why our minds might be preoccupied with these creatures that both fascinate and horrify."
Capitalizing on that fixation—natural history museums are a branch of show biz, after all—NHMU researchers named their new find Lythronax argestes, which translates it into English as King of Gore. "Since this was a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex (an evolutionary uncle) we thought a similarly evocative name would be good," Imris says. He acknowledges that a short, scary name also draws crowds. "It certainly doesn't hurt. King of Gore definitely has brought a lot of people into the museum."