The Steven Spielberg Jurassic Park franchise has been mocked as it place the ferocious predator in the period – from 199.6 to 145.5 million years ago – when it had been believed to have not evolved until the Cretaceous period, which began 145 million years ago.
However, new research suggests that the films and books, written by Michael Crichton, were right all along, with the study finding the 10 foot tall beast roamed the Earth earlier than thought.
A study from the University of Manchester found three-toed footprints in southern Africa which measured 22 inches long and 19 inches wide dating back more than 200 million years and the experts are convinced it came from one of the T rex’s very close relatives.
The newly discovered species is called Kayentapus ambrokholohal and has been dated back to the early Jurassic period.
It is part of the ‘megatherapods’ which also includes the T rex.
Dr Fabien Knoll, Senior Research Fellow at The University of Manchester, said: “The latest discovery is very exciting and sheds new light on the kind of carnivore that roamed what is now southern Africa.
“That’s because it is the first evidence of an extremely large meat-eating animal roaming a landscape otherwise dominated by a variety of herbivorous, omnivorous and much smaller carnivorous dinosaurs.
“It really would have been top of the food chain.
“In South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Namibia, there is good record of theropod footprints from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic epochs.
“In fact, there are numerous palaeosurfaces where footprints and even tail and body impressions of these, and other animals, can be found.
“But now we have evidence this region of Africa was also home to a mega-carnivore.”
Dr Lara Sciscio, postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town, said: “This discovery marks the first occurrence of very large carnivorous dinosaurs in the Early Jurassic of southern Gondwana – the prehistoric continent which would later break up and become Africa and other landmasses.
“This makes it a significant find. Globally, these large tracks are very rare.
“There is only one other known site similar in age and sized tracks, which is in Poland.”