SCIENTISTS have identified a new dinosaur from fossils dug up in China and nicknamed it T-rex’s cousin.
The gigantic creature roamed North America and east Asia between about 65million and 99m years ago.
Researchers, led by Dr David Hone of University College Dublin, discovered fragments of fossils from the meat eater in a so-called dinosaur quarry in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong.
Known as a theropod because it walks on its two hind legs, the dinosaur is said to be a close relative of T-rex.
It was identified from skull, jaw bone and pieces of teeth. Based on their size it measured about 11m long, stood about 4m high and weighed close to six tonnes.
Dr Hone, from UCD’s school of biology and environmental science, spent three years at the Shandong site before joining the Dublin college.
“It’s another big T-rex and these things don’t turn up every day. It’s one of the biggest predators of all time,” he said.
“It’s the first super-gigantic T-rex relative discovered in quite a long time. It would be top of the food chain because it would be the biggest thing out there feeding but there are a couple of others out there the same size.”
T-rex’s cousin had a 1m-long skull and rounded, chisel-like, bone-crushing teeth 9cm long.
The dinosaur has been officially named Zhuchengtyrannus magnus in honour of Zhucheng, the city in which the fossils were found. But because of its huge size, scientists quickly tagged it T-rex’s cousin.
Dr Hone said: “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 research paper was published in Cretaceous Research in the online journal Science Direct.
Another T-rex-related dinosaur of similar size has been found in the quarry area, the fossils of which are still being analysed.
Tyrannosaurines, which includes T-rex and its cousin, were huge carnivores characterised by small arms, two-fingered hands and large, bone-crushing jaws. They were likely both predators and scavengers.
Dr Hone was the lead author of the scientific paper but was supported in the research by Professor Xu Xing of the Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, who has named more than 30 dinosaurs, making him the world leader in describing new dinosaur species.
The Shandong quarry is home to one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur bones in the world.
Research suggests the area contains so many dinosaur fossils because it was alarge flood plain where many dinosaur bodies were washed together during floods and fossilised.
Picture: An artist’s impression of the dinosaur found in China, which is officially named the Zhuchengtyrannus magnus.
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