WASHINGTON - Its nickname may sound funny -"Pinocchio rex" - but it probably would not have been wise to laugh at this strange, long-snouted cousin of the famous meat-eating dinosaur T. rex as it easily could have eaten you alive.
Scientists on Wednesday identified a new member of Tyrannosaurus rex's family, a beast named Qianzhousaurus sinensis that was up to 30 feet (9 meters) long and stalked China at the very end of the age of dinosaurs.
It differs in some significant ways from other members of the carnivorous group of dinosaurs known as tyrannosaurs, especially with a skull far more elongated than that of T. rex. "It's a new breed of tyrannosaur, with a long snout and lots of horns on its skull, very different from the short-snouted, robust, muscular skulls of T. rex. So it tells us that tyrannosaurs were more ecologically variable than we previously thought," said paleontologist Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, one of the researchers.
Its elongated snout prompted researchers to nickname it"Pinocchio rex," inspired by the wooden puppet who dreamed of being a real boy but whose nose grew when he told a lie. "The long snout made us think of Pinocchio and his long nose, so Pinocchio rex seemed like a cheeky nickname," Brusatte said.
Two other tyrannosaur fossils with long snouts have been found previously in Mongolia but both specimens were juveniles. Brusatte said it had been unclear whether those two were dinosaur kiddies with juvenile features like a long snout that would disappear in adulthood. "The new fossil solves this debate because it is twice the size of the two Mongolian specimens and much more mature, and still has the long snout and weird horns. So these were not juvenile features, but characteristic features of this unusual subgroup of long-snouted tyrannosaurs," Brusatte said.