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“Long lost cousin” of T. rex identified

March 31, 2011
Courtesy of University College Dublin
and World Science staff

Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied a new spe­cies of huge meat-eating di­no­saur, which they call a close rel­a­tive of the fear­some Ty­ran­no­saur­ rex, from fos­sil skull and jaw bones dis­cov­ered in Chi­na.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished on­line April 1 in the sci­en­tif­ic jour­nal Cre­ta­ceous Re­search, the newly named spe­cies Zhu­cheng­tyran­nus mag­nus probably was about 11 me­tres (12 yards) long, stood some four me­ters (o­ver four yards) tall, and weighed close to six tons. Com­pa­ra­ble in size and scale to the leg­end­ary T. rex, whose Lat­in name means “tyrant liz­ard king,” the beast is de­scribed as one of the larg­est known mem­bers of the the­ro­pod di­no­saur line­age, which in­cludes T. rex.

Artist’s im­pres­sion of Z. mag­nus (© Rob­ert Nich­olls)


Both rep­tiles, along with the Asian Tar­bosaurus, are al­so de­scribed as mem­bers of a spe­cial­ized group of im­mense, closely re­lat­ed the­ro­pods called tyran­no­saur­ines that stalked North Amer­i­ca and east­ern Asia dur­ing the Late Cre­ta­ceous Pe­ri­od, from about 99 to 65 mil­lion years ago.

Zhucheng­tyran­nus can be dis­tin­guished from oth­er ty­ran­no­saur­ines by a com­bina­t­ion of un­ique fea­tures in the skull not seen in any oth­er the­ro­pod,” said bi­ol­o­gist Da­vid Hone of Un­ivers­ity Col­lege Dub­lin, the pa­per’s lead au­thor. “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 cen­ti­me­tres smaller than the equiv­a­lent ones in the larg­est T. rex spec­i­men. So there is no doubt that Zhu­cheng­tyran­nus was a huge tyran­nosaurine.”

The mon­i­ker Zhucheng­tyran­nus mag­nus means “the ‘Tyrant from Zhucheng’—be­cause the bones were found in the ­city of Zhucheng, in east­ern Chi­na’s Shan­dong Prov­ince,” added Hone.

A key mem­ber of the in­terna­t­ional team of sci­en­tists in­volved in the study was Xu Xin­g of the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Ver­te­brate Pa­le­on­tol­ogy and Pa­le­oan­thro­po­l­ogy. He has named more than 30 di­no­saurs, mak­ing him the world lead­er in de­scrib­ing new di­no­saur spe­cies, ac­cord­ing to col­leagues.

The tyran­nosaurines were huge car­ni­vores with small arms, two-fingered hands, and large pow­er­ful jaws that could have de­liv­ered a vi­cious, bone-crushing bite. They were likely preda­tors and scav­engers, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

To­geth­er with near­by sites, the quar­ry in Shan­dong Prov­ince, east­ern Chi­na where the new fos­sils were found con­tains one of the larg­est con­centra­t­ions of di­no­saur bones in the world, sci­en­tists say. Most of the spec­i­mens reco­vered from the quar­ry be­long to a gi­gantic spe­cies of had­ro­saur, or duck-billed di­no­saur. Re­search sug­gests that the ar­ea con­tains so many di­no­saur fos­sils be­cause it was a large flood plain where many di­no­saur bod­ies were washed to­geth­er dur­ing floods and lat­er fos­silized.


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Scientists have identified a new species of huge meat-eating dinosaur, which they call a close relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, from fossil skull and jaw bones discovered in China. According to a report published online April 1 in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, the newly named species Zhuchengtyrannus magnus probably was about 11 metres (12 yards) long, stood some four meters (over four yards) tall, and weighed close to six tons. Comparable in size and scale to the legendary T. rex, whose Latin name means “tyrant lizard king,” the beast is described as one of the largest known members of the theropod dinosaur lineage, which includes T. rex. Both reptiles, along with the Asian Tarbosaurus, are also described as members of a specialized group of immense, closely related theropods called tyrannosaurines that stalked North America and eastern Asia during the Late Cretaceous Period, from about 99 to 65 million years ago. “Zhuchengtyrannus can be distinguished from other tyrannosaurines by a combination of unique features in the skull not seen in any other theropod,” said biologist David Hone of University College Dublin, the paper’s lead author. “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 centimetres smaller than the equivalent ones in the largest T. rex specimen. So there is no doubt that Zhuchengtyrannus was a huge tyrannosaurine.” The moniker Zhuchengtyrannus magnus means “the ‘Tyrant from Zhucheng’—because the bones were found in the city of Zhucheng, in eastern China’s Shandong Province,” added Hone. A key member of the international team of scientists involved in the study is Professor Xu Xing of the Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. He has named more than 30 dinosaurs, making him the world leader in describing new dinosaur species, team members said. The tyrannosaurines were huge carnivores characterised by small arms, two-fingered hands, and large powerful jaws that could have delivered a powerful bone-crushing bite. They were likely predators and scavengers, according to experts. Together with nearby sites, the quarry in Shandong Province, eastern China where the new fossils were found contains one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur bones in the world, scientists say. Most of the specimens recovered from the quarry belong to a gigantic species of hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur. Research suggests that the area contains so many dinosaur fossils because it was a large flood plain where many dinosaur bodies were washed together during floods and later fossilized.