April 1, 2011

Researchers Identify Long Lost Cousin Of T. Rex

A gigantic theropod dinosaur measuring 11 meters long (36 feet), four meters tall (13 feet) and weighing in at six tons has been discovered in eastern China.

Scientists named this new dinosaur Zhuchengtyrannus magnus, which means the "Tyrant from Zhucheng," since the bones were found in the city of Zhucheng in eastern China's Shandong Province.

The quarry in Shandong Province, where the fossils were discovered, has one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur bones in the world. This is speculated to be a large flood plain where many dinosaur bodies were washed up and fossilized.

Although scientists only have some of the skull and jaw bones, they believe its size is comparable to that of T. rex, and is believed to be a close relative of the carnivorous dinosaur. The bones suggest that the dinosaur was full grown, reports BBC.

"With only some skull and jaw bones to work with, it is difficult to precisely gauge the overall size of this animal. But the bones we have are just a few centimeters smaller than the equivalent ones in the largest T. rex specimen. So there is no doubt that Zhuchengtyrannus was a huge tyrannosaurine," the researchers report in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The new dinosaur is part of a specialized group of gigantic theropods called tyrannosaurines, which includes T. rex and the Asian Tarbosaurus. They existed during the Late Cretaceous Period (99 to 65 million years ago) in areas of North America and eastern Asian.

Tyrannosaurines were giant carnivorous predators and scavengers with small arms, two-fingered hands, and large jaws that could deliver a powerful bone-crushing bite.

However, Zhuchengtyrannus is unique from other tyrannosaurines.

"Zhuchengtyrannus can be distinguished from other tyrannosaurines by a combination of unique features in the skull not seen in any other theropod," says lead author of the paper, Dr. David Hone from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Professor Xu Xing of Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in China was involved in this discovery. He has named more than 30 dinosaurs and is the world's leading expert in describing new species.


Image Caption: Scientists have identified a new species of gigantic theropod dinosaur, a close relative of T. rex, from fossil skull and jaw bones discovered in China. According to findings published online April 1, 2011, in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, the newly named dinosaur species "Zhuchengtyrannus magnus" probably measured about 11 meters long, stood about 4 meters tall, and weighed close to 6 tons. Comparable in size and scale to the legendary T. rex, this new dinosaur is one of the largest theropod (carnivorous) dinosaurs ever identified by scientists. Credit: Courtesy of Robert Nicholls (C)


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