The Tyrannosaurus Rex was one of the biggest, meanest, fiercest dinosaurs to ever roam the earth. Now, scientists have discovered the menacing lizard-on-steroids had kind of a dopey-looking cousin.
Researchers unearthed bones of the 66-million-year-old predator at a construction site in China. They nicknamed it "Pinocchio Rex" for its distinctively long snout. It was a much smaller, more slender version of its cousin and, according to this illustration, had an oddly rainbow-colored nose. (Via Nature / STV)
But don't be fooled by its playful nickname and bright colors. It was a born predator like the rest of its family.
Lead researcher Dr. Steve Brusatte told BBC, "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."
"It would have been a deadly animal. ... T-Rex is kind of an unfair comparison because hardly anything was ever as big as T-Rex. So, this guy would have been eight or nine meters long. Weighed about a ton. You would've wanted to avoid it."
Interestingly, this isn't Brusatte's only tyrannosaur discovery. But, he says this one is a bigger breakthrough.
In 2009, his team dig up bones of this specimen in Mongolia, called Alioramus. Notice any similarities? Problem was that creature was too young, so "it was possible their long snouts were just a weird transient feature that grows out in adults." (Via Flickr / Wyoming_Jackrabbit, Wikimedia Commons / Nobu Tamura, National Academy of Sciences)
Brusatte says Pinocchio Rex was fully mature, twice as big as the juveniles and still looked the same, which was enough to convince him the long-snouters existed. "This is the slam dunk we needed: the long-snouted tyrannosaurs were real." (Via BBC)
And this isn't the only one to pop up across the globe. In March, researchers in Alaska found another T-Rex relative. Again, much smaller, though certainly not as flashy as Pinocchio. (Via Discovery)
Researchers do expect to find more extensions ot the tyrannosaur family tree as they continue to search for fossils throughout Asia.