Monday, April 4, 2011

Zhuchengtyrannus magnus - a T. rex Relative

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 in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, the newly named dinosaur species “Zhuchengtyrannus magnus” probably measured about 11 metres long, stood about 4 metres tall, and weighed close to 6 tonnes.

“We named the new genus Zhuchengtyrannus magnus - which means the ‘Tyrant from Zhucheng’ - because the bones were found in the city of Zhucheng, in eastern China's Shandong Province,” says Dr 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 in China.

Professor Xu has named more than 30 dinosaurs, making him the world leader in describing new dinosaur species.

The tyrannosaurines, the group including T. rex and its closest relatives, 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 both predators and scavengers.

Together with nearby sites, the quarry in Shandong Province, eastern China where the remains of this huge carnivore were found contains one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur bones in the world. 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 fossilised.

Zhuchengtyrannus magnus was named in honour of Zhucheng, the city in eastern China where the fossils were found. Tyrannus is the Latin for ‘king’ or ‘tyrant’, and magnus is the Latin for ‘great’. The name is intended to convey ‘great tyrant of Zhucheng’. This new dinosaur species, alongside Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, is one of the largest members of the tyrannosaurines, a specialised group of large theropods that lived during the Late Cretaceous Period (99 to 65 million years ago).

David W.E. Hone, Kebai Wang, Corwin Sullivan, Xijin Zhao, Shuqing Chen, Dunjin Li, Shuan Ji, Qiang Ji, Xing Xu. A new tyrannosaurine theropod, Zhuchengtyrannus magnus is named based on a maxilla and dentary. Cretaceous Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2011.03.005

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