The newly named tyrannosauroid dinosaur, Suskityrannus hazelae, stood around 3 feet tall at the hip and was about 9 feet long, according to Virginia Tech. It dates back 92 million years, about 20 million years before the T. rex stomped the Earth.
"The animal would have looked a bit more like the "Jurassic Park " Velociraptors in terms of size and head height than its later huge relatives, like T. rex", said study lead researcher Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at the Virginia Tech College of Science.
Suskityrannus stood at only about 3 feet tall and 9 feet long, weighing in at about 45 to 90 pounds. But T-Rex had yet to appear - it reared its big head some 68 million years ago.
"Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet", says Nesbitt.
"It also belongs to a dinosaurian fauna that just proceeds the iconic dinosaurian faunas in the latest Cretaceous that include some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as the Triceratops, predators like Tyrannosaurus rex, and duckbill dinosaurs like Edmontosaurus".More news: The Rotorua siblings with a link to bonny baby Sussex
With a foot particularly adapted for running and a powerful bite - traits unknown in early specimens or later, larger cousins - the authors regard S. hazelae as an intermediate tyrannosauroid, linking the earliest, smallest members to the giants of the Late Cretaceous. So, if you're wondering how small the arms of Suskityrannus were, Nesbitt and his team are not exactly sure. Smaller tyrannosaurs are thought to have existed up to 150 million years before the T. rex.
Another partial skeleton was found in 1997 by Robert Denton, who is now a senior geologist with Terracon Consultants.
Dr Nesbitt's high school discovery the following year produced a more intact fossil.
The fossil is also one of the most complete skeletons of any non-tyrannosaurid from North America - all of the older fossil occurrences consist of teeth, isolated bones, or a partially associated skeleton.
At the time, experts thought he might have found a dromaeosaur such as a Velociraptor.More news: Poll code violations by Modi, Shah: SC adjourns hearing to May 8
Suskityrannus hazelae isn't the first or even smallest of the Tyrannosaurus family tree, but Nesbitt said it provides the best example of how this family of modest-sized dinosaurs evolved into the towering horror of movies, television shows and nightmares.
Though Suskityrannus hazelae may have been Nesbitt's first major discovery, it certainly hasn't been his last.
However its relative, the big Tyrannosaurus Rex we all know, only evolved around 15 million years before the dinosaurs were wiped out.
Two partial skeletons were found.
Smithsonian Institution paleobiologist Hans Sues, who wasn't part of the study, said it was an important find.More news: Pochettino in tears in emotional post-match interview
The Suski is about three feet high and nine feet long. "Most dinosaurs and other reptiles have roughly cylindrical sole bones like us", wrote Manafzadeh in an email to Gizmodo.