National Geographic News
Scientists have discovered a new species of long-snouted tyrannosaur--a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex--nicknamed Pinocchio rex, which stalked the Earth more than 66 million years ago.

Qianzhousaurus (right, illustrated battling other dinosaurs) may have sported colorful feathers.

ILLUSTRATION BY CHUANG ZHAO

Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic

Published May 7, 2014

It's no lie—a new tyrannosaur nicknamed "Pinocchio rex" has been unearthed in China, a new study says.

The discovery confirms that long-snouted tyrannosaurs once roamed the Earth, laying to rest a long-running debate.

Formally described as Qianzhousaurus sinensis, the newfound dinosaur had a thin, long nose studded with tiny horns, a far cry from the short, muscular snout of its cousin Tyrannosaurus rex. (Related: "New Pygmy Tyrannosaur Found, Roamed the Arctic.")

At about 29 feet (9 meters) long and 1,800 pounds (800 kilograms), the dinosaur was smaller and likely sprightlier than the 42-foot-long (13 meters) T. rex. The two creatures lived side by side about 66 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period, just before the demise of the dinosaurs, according to a study published May 7 in the journal Nature Communications.

Scientists happened upon the nearly complete, "one in a million" Qianzhousaurus skeleton at a construction site in Ganzhou (map), a rapidly developing southern city that's also rich with fossils. (The tyrannosaur's first name is inspired by Qianzhou, the ancient name for Ganzhou.)

The fossil was so well preserved because soon after it died, the animal was buried with dirt, leaving it protected from erosive water and air for millennia, said study leader Junchang Lü of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing.

The study team was "really excited about" the find, said study co-author Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University in Edinburgh, in Scotland. "Big, predatory dinosaurs are everyone's favorite."

Long-Snouted Mystery

Only two fossilized tyrannosaurs with long snouts have ever been found—both of them in Mongolia and both in the Alioramus genus.

With such a scarce fossil record, scientists didn't know whether those two represented a new class of dinosaur, or were instead young tyrannosaurs that hadn't grown into their adult snouts. (Read "The Real Jurassic Park" in National Geographic magazine.)

According to Brusatte, the evidence is "unequivocal" that Pinocchio rex is a true long-snouted tyrannosaur—and thus long-snouted tyrannosaurs were a distinct breed.

There are two ways Brusatte and colleagues knew this. First, the skeleton is twice the size of the Alioramus skeletons, which alone suggests it's a full-grown adult.

Second, paleontologists who have observed hundreds of tyrannosaur skulls know how the bones join together as the animal ages—and the Qianzhousaurus skull is totally fused, resembling that of a mature T. rex.

University of Maryland vertebrate paleontologist Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., who wasn't involved in the study, declared in an email interview that "it's most definitely a long-snouted tyrannosaur," and not a juvenile.

In Holtz's view, "it might be argued that this is just a fully adult member of a new species of Alioramus, but they chose to create a new genus name for it."

Qianzhousaurus is "a very interesting and unusual specimen," said paleontologist Tony Fiorillo, of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.

"These discoveries are always exciting because they help us understand the relationships between the tyrannosaurs, the dominant predators in Asia and North America during the later Cretaceous," FIorillo said in an email interview.

A Nose for Certain Tasks

So why the long snout? The scientists plan to run computer models to see what kind of prey the long-nosed dinosaur was best at catching. The long snouts of modern animals, such as crocodiles, make them adept at capturing fish.

Qianzhousaurus probably couldn't bite as strongly as T. rex because it had a weaker jaw, the scientists said. So they suspect the newfound tyrannosaur went after smaller and less challenging prey than T. rex hunted.

The fossil record at Ganzhou reveals there would have been plenty of food: The environment was lush with trees and water that hosted a panoply of life-forms including lizards; small, feathered dinosaurs called oviraptors; and long-necked plant-eaters. (Watch video: "Dinosaurs 101.")

Holtz agreed that Pinocchio rex's slender snout suggests it would have fed in a different style—and on different types and sizes of prey—than what he calls the "heavy bruiser" tyrannosaurs like T. rex.

The two tyrannosaurs' different diets meant they could have lived in relative harmony—with each other, at least.

"It would've been bad news," Brusatte joked, "if you ran into either one of them."

Follow Christine Dell'Amore on Twitter and Google+.

28 comments
Raymond Reiffer
Raymond Reiffer

Why is it that we constantly read that the creature in question has been buried with sand or soil after death and thus preserved. Where as the sand it self could have been the death mechanism.

This would be shown by the position of the animal as it displays the spine and neck arching back as seen in a dead deer after road kill.

When crushed by falling debris as sand or what ever the remains would be captured more or less as it stood or fell in place. Thus frozen in position and no signs of neck arching back.

Like clams that are dead display open shells as they were buried,but living clams are closed tight and stay that way as covered and fossilized.

dean wherry
dean wherry

Love the actual discussion here as opposed to other sites, like Yahoo for instance. Actual insight. Pleasant change.

Shaarni Ellen Balde
Shaarni Ellen Balde

I love it how they name it P.rex it's not much of a tongue twister compared to most dino names!

Emily Grim
Emily Grim

from some research i did the "Pinocchio rex" looks exactly like the Wankel T-Rex  

Reynaldo Ronquillo
Reynaldo Ronquillo

This should be studied more carefully before publishing. Most fossils coming from China are fakes.

Jonathan Harding
Jonathan Harding

As interesting as this is, Jack Horner's theory (the one that involves several different species actually being one species) could very well throw this new species out the window, declaring it as a younger member of the well known species: Tyrannosaurus rex.


This may not be true of Qianzhousaurus sinensis, but is seems so far that what were once thought to be three separate species of ceratopsian are actually all the same species going through it's many life cycles. This theory also removed the Dracorex and Stigmaloch from the species list as well, showing them to be juvenile Pachycephalosaurus.

I would love for there to be a smaller species of tyrannosaurid (particularly one with a long, thin snout), but with the Nanotyrannus now a young T. rex, this is prettymuch the last hope. All I want to know is whether Horner's theory has been considered in the naming of this species.

Andrew Kukor
Andrew Kukor

This article is incorrect in stating that oviraptors are "small, feathered egg-eaters"; although the first specimen was found near what was suspected to be another dinosaur species' eggs, later finds proved these to have actually been the oviraptor's eggs, ruling out the idea that it ate eggs. Source: Wikipedia, plus my own knowledge.

Warburton MacKinnon
Warburton MacKinnon

Leslie, allosaurs developed much the way they were already developing, several versions of the allosuar family have been found, but not it Asia or N.America, these were the(forgive me while I butcher the name) Charachodanotosaurs of Africa and S.America, and they rivialed or surpassed the rexes in length and hieght but generally not in weight. What I wonder is does this mean Nano-Tyranus is back in play as a species....scientists keep finding that all  of these large theropod carnasaur families are much more diverse than we thought. The more we look the more diverse both families Tyranosaurs and Allasaurides seem to be than we might think at first look...perhaps both types could even coexist in the right enviorment.

Leslie R.
Leslie R.

Has anyone else wondered if this is could be an evolved form of Allosaur? Allo and Big-T are closely related, expect for the way that they eat and the size of their bodies and head. The time difference also could have played with the Allosaurus, as it lived during the Late Jurassic. Pinocchio-Rex (love the name!) lived during the Late Cretaceous.  Big-T was the bone crusher.. and Al was the meat slicer of it's time.

Maybe T-Rex left a lot of leftovers for this one to thrive?

Mitra R. Ramkissoon
Mitra R. Ramkissoon

I wonder if there was any sexual dimorphism there, with the males having a longer or more ornate snout? Hopefully, there'll be more in the fossil record to discover.  Btw, nice article Christine. Read alot of your work; keep on keeping on!

Didier Newman
Didier Newman

But, along the extinction of these big animals or the tranformation into birds, is there evolution if there is no time? How will evolutionary biology meet new physical paradigms about time, space and so on? Will new conceptual changes deny evolution? Or on the contrary, will it become a more extraordinary process, full of astonishing implications? If so, will dinosuars and past human beings and the rest of living beings become different as science progresses? After all, is life something fix-finite-defined? That is, can one understand it by means of using a brain and its limited words? Does the whole of life fit into a bone box? Indeed, will science find out and add indefinitely without understanding completely? Anyway, is it possible to understand something completely? Along these lines, there is a different book, a preview in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion in order to free-think for an skeptical while

Steven Dawson
Steven Dawson

Pinnocchio Rex...... I'm a real Dinosaur! Or he just lied a lot. Wonder if the long snout could be associated to scavenging as well, making it easier to eat meat from inside a carcass? 

Leslie R.
Leslie R.

@Warburton MacKinnon Wow, thank you for your insight. It's fascinating to see all the different kinds of theropods found all over the world. Thank you for reminding me about their geographic differences.

I also wonder if Nano-Tyranus isn't just what it seems, but I guess only time will tell with furthered research and exploration. I hope that we can find more of these new creatures to help us understand how truly diverse the world really was!

Warburton MacKinnon
Warburton MacKinnon

@Mitra R. Ramkissoon  I would think they at least looked into it,but may not yet have enough fossils to determine that. If just because among heavier/short jawed Tyrannasaurs there is a bit of sexual dimorphism with the males being generally smaller,so it would probably be reasonable to assume perhaps more ornimitation on the males IF it's used to procure a mate,like say [limage on birds the males tend to be more colorful.

Warburton MacKinnon
Warburton MacKinnon

@Steven Dawson  Have to think it was going for smaller faster prey than T-rex might and overall a longer thinner jaw is a bad thing for any scavenger...scavengers tend to be a heavier more robust animal bone wise it seems....look at hyena as an example compared to a wolf for what I am getting at the jaws in particular.

Craig Nordmark
Craig Nordmark

@Steven Dawson TRex would be a better scavenger. The tasty inside parts are likely long gone by the time a scavenger shows up, assuming the critter didn't die of natural causes. TRex was big so could chase off any other preditors/scavengers present (possibly before all the tasty stuff is gone) and had the bone crunching bite to consume every last bit of the carcass. Not saying TRex was only a scavenger but I can't imagine one turning down a "free" meal. If the rightful owner protests, TRex can eat him too!

Leslie R.
Leslie R.

@Warburton MacKinnon @Leslie R.It's alright! I really appreciate it! I've been a dinosaur enthusiast since I was a kid and I haven't been too in touch with newer findings because I just started college. I'm definitely going to beef up my knowledge this summer!

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