Dead men tell no lies, but perhaps dead dinosaurs do. A new dinosaur species found in China and nicknamed "Pinocchio Rex" was a long-snouted cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex.
The narrow-nosed beast was slightly smaller and more slender than T. rex, but was still a top predator, researchers say. It roamed the Earth more than 66 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period, just before the space-rock impact that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs, according to a study detailed today in the journal Nature Communications.
An artist's illustration of 'Pinocchio Rex' (Qianzhousaurus sinensis).
"People have a picture of tyrannosaursas apex predators — the biggest, baddest, meanest dinosaurs," said study researcher Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland.
The new dinosaur fits that image in some ways, but not quite as closely as T. rex does. Although big and at the top of the food chain, the long-nosed dino wouldn't have been able to "crunch through bone" like T. rex, Brusatte told Live Science.
Researchers previously found the complete skull and parts of the neck, back, hind limbs and tail of the new dinosaur, Qianzhousaurus sinensis, at a construction site in the Nanxiong Formation in southeastern China.
The new specimen had a long snout with many teeth, and horns on its nose. The creature probably weighed a little less than a ton and was probably 25 to 30 feet (7.5 to 9 meters) long, compared with a full-grown T. rex, which weighed about 5 tons and was about 40 feet (12 m) long, the researchers said.
"It really is a beautiful specimen," Brusatte said.
Brusatte and colleagues said Pinocchio Rex was a "top predator" in its ecosystem, likely feeding on small, feathered dinosaurs or lizards.
Skull of Pinocchio Rex.
"It's a cool specimen," said Thomas Holtz, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, in College Park, who was not involved in the study but was a reviewer on the paper. "It helps show that tyrannosaurs were pretty diverse and weren't all the big bruisers that Tyrannosaurus or Tarbosaurus were."
- Tanya Lewis, Live Science
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First published May 7 2014, 8:55 AM