If you haven’t all heard by now, a new species of Tyrannosaur has been literally “unearthed” via a recent paleontological finding in Ganzhou, China.
Dubbed - not kidding - “Pinocchio Rex” due to its elongated snout, the official name is Qianzhousaurus sinensis.
The dinosaur’s skull. Not your
"elementary school-taught" "Jurassic Park" idea of a T-Rex. [source]
Feel free to peruse the research findings detailed in the most recent publication of Nature Communications; however, here’s the skinny (or should I say, “long and short of it”….haha - I’m not sorry):
WHO is responsible for the discovery and WHERE?
- Building/road construction workers in Ganzhou, China, whereby the fast developing southern city exists in a geological area rich with dinosaur fossils.
The specimen was rooted out by a construction crew working on the outskirts of Ganzhou, China. Fortunately, the workers took care in removing the fossils and delivered them to a local museum. “The specimen is nearly complete and spectacularly preserved, so very little was damaged during the excavation,” said Steve Brusatte, one of the study’s authors.
Jiangxi of Ganzhou, China
“These areas are just starting to be explored thoroughly, but just in the last few years several dinosaurs have been found there, including a big long-necked sauropod and several species of small feathered dinosaurs,” explained Brusatte
HOW is Qianzhousaurus related to the Tyrannosaurs we all know and
love fear, WHY should we care, and WHAT is the significance of this finding?
The genus Alioramus have a unique skull type, similar to that of Qianzhousaurus; however, the only “surviving” specimens we have are from juveniles. It’s been previously unclear that these juvenile skulls would develop Tyrannosaur-style heads into adulthood.
With the discovery of this Pinocchio-like skull anatomy on the fringe of adulthood, it rang as a clear indicator that the skull was not in some transitory adolescent phase, but an entirely separate species altogether. Not to mention, the Qianzhousarus skull is twice the size of Alioramus (another indicator of it being a fully developed adult) and the bones of the skull were fused together, mirroring that of a mature T. Rex.
Note the needle-like teeth and saw-like snout. Not your typical Tyrannosaur. [source]
Quianzhousaurus measured 29 feet long and 1,800 pounds, in relation to the 42-foot-long Tyrannosaur Rex. The T. Rex Quianzhousaurus co-existed with 66 million years ago was of the Asian variety — Tarbosaurus (below):
Tarbosaurus bataar to scale [source]
"The fossil was so well preserved because soon after it died, the animal was buried with dirt, leaving it protected from erosive water and air for millennia," said study leader Junchang Lü of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing.
Computer models will reveal more about the skull, which will provide further insight into the prey “Pinocchio” was snatching up with that snout. Due to its jaw being weaker than the T. Rex, Quianzhousaurus most likely went after smaller prey.
The Ganzhou fossil record indicates the environment 66 million years ago would have been abundant with trees, water, and life, such as lizards, small feathered dinosaurs (oviraptors) and long-necked plant-eaters.
Artist Ludek Pesek’s impression of the Cretaceous landscape. [source]
The co-existence between the larger and smaller Tyrannosaurs relied heavily on the ground they were able to cover and what their anatomy permitted them to hunt or forage on, which would have more or less placed them in beneficial ecological niches in order to successfully survive and flourish.
Again, from MOTHERBOARD, to illustrate this further:
“T. rex was the bad boy of the ecosystem, the top dog, using its huge muscular skull to bite through its prey and take down mostly anything it wanted…the new guy probably relied more on speed and stealth than on brute force. [It’s] kind of like lions and cheetahs on the savannah, two different types of cats that generally eat similar things, but their differences in body size and skull shape allow them to eat slightly different prey, and thus coexist,” study author Steve Brusatte stated.
In the same way, apex tyrannosaurs like Tarbosaurus specialized in really big game—we’re talking hadrosaurs and sauropods—while Qianzhousaurus hunted smaller feathered dinosaurs and lizards. Late Cretaceous Ganzhou was a place and time of great abundance, and there would have been more than enough meat to support both tyrannosaur species. “The environment was warm, probably fairly wet, and teeming with dinosaurs,” said Brusatte.
Unfortunately for both tyrannosaurs, the good times would give way to an unmitigated apocalypse. Qianzhousaurus lived around 66 million years ago, and was wiped out with the rest of the dinosaurs in the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. According to Brusatte, this gives Qianzhousaurus the distinction of being “one of the last surviving dinosaurs known to science.”
Top: Artists impression of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event from land. Bottom: The geological boundary, indicative of the grey clay layer viewed in the Geulhemmergroeve tunnels near Geulhem, Netherlands.
Again, the official study can be found HERE (although you have to be a paid subscriber to read most of these), as well as the information I gathered from National Geographic and MOTHERBOARD | Vice.