Meet Qianzhousaurus sinensis, the newly discovered relative of the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex. This smaller, but by no means less terrifying, dinosaur roamed the Earth alongside its T. rex cousin during the Late Cretaceous period approximately 66 million years ago. Its characteristic long snout has earned it the nickname “Pinocchio rex”. The discovery has been described in the journal Nature Communications.
Two fossilized tyrannosaurs with extended snouts had been discovered previously, both of which were members of the Alioramus genus that roamed the Late Cretaceous. Both specimens were juveniles, however, which meant that scientists were unsure as to whether they were really a new class of dinosaur, or whether they just hadn’t grown into their adult snouts yet. The newly discovered fossil, however, was double the size of the Alioramus specimens and was close to adulthood, which served as confirmation that long-snouted tyrannosaurs truly existed.
Scientists stumbled upon this remarkably well preserved specimen at a construction site in an area of southern China called Ganzhou, which the new species has been named after; Qianzhou is the ancient name for Ganzhou. Approximately 9 meters in length and weighing in at around 800 kilograms, Q. sinensis was smaller than the 13 meter T. rex, and was strikingly different in appearance. These dinosaurs possessed an extended skull with long, narrow teeth in contrast to the stouter jaws of the T. rex which were lined with much thicker teeth.
These dinosaurs might have wandered Asia during the Late Cretaceous with the T. rex, but they probably wouldn’t have competed for food sources since it was likely that they targeted different prey. The more powerful jaws of the T. rex would have allowed these dinosaurs to go after larger, more challenging prey.
Scientists predict that they may find more long-snouted tyrannosaurs, so they have created a new branch of the tyrannosaur family which includes Q. sinensis and both of the Alioramus species.
“This is a different breed of tyrannosaur,” says Dr Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh, and one of the authors of the study. “It might have looked a little comical, but it would have been as deadly as any other tyrannosaur, and maybe even a little faster and stealthier.”