Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that belonged to the same family as Tyrannosaurus rex.
The remains of the long-snouted tyrannosaur, formally named Qianzhousaurus sinensis and nicknamed Pinocchio rex, were found near the city of Ganzhou in southern China. Researchers believe the animal was a fearsome carnivore that lived more than 66 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period.
The bones were discovered on a construction site by workmen who took them to a local museum.
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and the University of Edinburgh then became involved in examining the remains.
With an elongated skull and long, narrow teeth, the predator would have looked very different from a T rex, which had thick teeth and more powerful jaws.
Palaeontologists had been uncertain about the existence of long-snouted tyrannosaurs.
Previously, just two fossilised tyrannosaurs with elongated heads had been found, and since they were juveniles it was unclear whether they were from a new class of dinosaur or simply at an early growth stage.
It is thought that Qianzhousaurus sinensis lived alongside other tyrannosaurs but would not have been in direct competition with them, since they probably hunted different prey.
Experts at the University of Edinburgh said the new specimen was of an animal nearing adulthood. It was found largely intact and “remarkably well preserved”.
An artistic reconstruction of the Regaliceratops peterhewsi, the newly discovered Triceratops cousin with a built-in crown. (Art by Julius T. Csotonyi. Courtesy of Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta.)
By Li Zhou, smithsonian.com
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” That’s especially true in the case of Regaliceratops peterhewsi: The skull of this recently discovered dinosaur with crown-like headgear tops the scales at 592 pounds.
The new species, a cousin of the Triceratops, was formally named for its regal appearance—the skull bears a bony frill decorated with a series of pentagon-shaped plates, like spikes on a crown. Compared to Triceratops, the dinosaur also possesses a taller nose horn and two “comically small” horns over its eyes.
As such, the researchers have nicknamed the creature Hellboy.
No matter what you call it, though, the 70-million-year-old fossil represents an unexpected case of evolutionary convergence among horned dinosaurs, and it hints at the potential for more fossil wonders waiting to be unearthed.
“This discovery shows that we are perhaps still quite a ways from knowing the complete diversity of dinosaur species in the Late Cretaceous of western North America,” says James Farlow, a professor of geology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. “The evolutionary tree presented by the authors suggests that an immediate ancestor of Regaliceratops that would have lived a few million years ago has yet to be found. So there are plenty of interesting dinosaurs still to be discovered.”
Geologist Peter Hews found the fossil skull a decade ago along the Oldman River in southeastern Alberta, Canada, a place where horned dinosaurs have rarely been unearthed. Paleontologists Caleb M. Brown and Donald Henderson at the Royal Tyrrell Museum had the opportunity to examine the skull after it had been excavated and cleaned.
There are two historical classifications of horned dinosaurs: Chasmosaurines and Centrosaurines. Species belonging to the Chasmosaurines, like Triceratops, have a small horn over the nose, large horns over the eyes and a large frill. Centrosaurines, on the other hand, have a large horn over the nose, small ones over the eyes and a small frill.
The Regaliceratops contains traits of both, so Brown and Henderson have concluded that the species provides evidence of evolutionary convergence—the dinosaur evolved from one lineage but then independently developed traits from another.
Its relatively young age suggests that Regaliceratops existed after Centrosaurines were believed to be extinct, indicating that their characteristics were later integrated into other species, many of which may not have been excavated yet.
Rather than the sharp teeth, large head and thick neck of its meat-eating cousins, Chilesaurus had a horny beak, flatter teeth for chomping plants, a small head and slender neck. Illustration: Gabriel Lío
Ian Sample, science editor.
Fossil hunters in Chile have unearthed the remains of a bizarre Jurassic dinosaur that combined a curious mixture of features from different prehistoric animals.
The evolutionary muddle of a beast grew to the size of a small horse and was the most abundant animal to be found 145 million years ago, in what is now the Aysén region of Patagonia.
The discovery ranks as one of the most remarkable dinosaur finds of the past 20 years, and promises to cause plenty of headaches for paleontologists hoping to place the animal in the dinosaur family tree.
“I don’t know how the evolution of dinosaurs produced this kind of animal, what kind of ecological pressures must have been at work,” said Fernando Novas at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires.
The first fossilised bones of the beast were discovered in 2004 when a Chilean couple, who are geologists, were studying rocks in the Andes to understand how the mountain range formed.
The couple’s son, Diego, was playing nearby when he found a fossilised bone that turned out to belong to the new species.
Wendiceratops roamed southern Alberta around 79 million years ago, when the area was a lush lowland on the western edge of a seaway covering the middle of North America.
Parts of at least four Wendiceratops were found together, including a mix of younger and older animals. None are complete, but enough is preserved to allow a fairly detailed reconstruction of the overall anatomy.
Wendiceratops is unique among horned dinosaurs in the configuration of the forward-hooked bones studding the back of the frill. Each species has its own “fingerprint” of frill bones, so it’s pretty easy to pick out Wendiceratops from the crowd of its close relatives.
To me, it’s quite interesting that the frill of Wendiceratops is similar (but not identical) to an animal called Sinoceratops, which lived a few million years later in China. This suggests a close evolutionary relationship between the two animals. Does it mean that Wendiceratops or one of its descendents wandered over to China from North America?
That’s certainly possible, and warrants additional study. Horned dinosaur skulls are developmentally plastic, so it’s also possible that the anatomy in Sinoceratops was independently evolved. We’ll need more fossils to figure this out!
Introducing Wendiceratops, a Spectacular New Horned Dinosaur
Skeletal reconstruction of Wendiceratops, with known bones shown in blue.
Like many of its close relatives, Wendiceratops had a big nose horn.
This in itself is not unusual, but within geological time Wendiceratops is the oldest horned dinosaur to have the feature. Paleontologists have suspected for awhile that enlarged nose horns evolved at least twice in horned dinosaurs (once in the line leading to Triceratops and once in the line leading to Wendiceratops and its relatives…and maybe a third time in the “primitive” Protoceratops).
Now we know a little more about the timing! Fossils like Wendiceratops add critical details to the broad-brush evolutionary picture.
Wendiceratops (named in honor of its discoverer, Wendy Sloboda.
This article originally appeared at PLOS Blogs and is republished here under a creative commons license. Image credits: Danielle Dufault via Evans and Ryan, 2015.
Utah scientists believe they have discovered a new dinosaur species they named Rhinorex condrupus.
Rhinorex literally means ‘nose king’.
Yes, you got it right, this dinosaurs had one impressive nose.
North Carolina State University’s Terry Gates and Brigham Young University’s Rodney Scheetz analyzed the fossils found in 1992 in Utah’s Book Cliffs.
The herbivore Rhinorex lived around 75 million years ago in what were then Utah swamps. Rhinorex is a hadrosaur similar to Gryposaurus, but its flamboyant nose makes the 30 feet and 4 tones Rhinorex stand out.
The two scientists had a couple of materials available for analysis: the dinosaur’s skull, a partial sandstone encased skeleton, and skin impressions.
“If this dinosaur is anything like its relatives then it likely did not have a super sense of smell,” NC State postdoctoral researcher Terry Gates said in a statement, “but maybe the nose was used as a means of attracting mates, recognizing members of its species, or even as a large attachment for a plant-smashing beak.
We are already sniffing out answers to these questions.”
The largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth was nine feet longer than the world’s biggest T. Rex specimen.
Scientists report that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus also appears to have been the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur.
New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment.