Pinocchio is not just the name of a wooden-headed puppet with a penchant for lying and strings that held it down — it’s also the (sadly, unofficial) name of the latest relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex yet found, the Pinocchio rex. Before the dinosaur was dubbed with the unofficial name Pinocchio rex, it had been given the more boring official scientific name Qianzhousaurus sinensis. On Wednesday, there was a study published about the P.rex, or Pinocchio rex, after its elongated skull, in the journal Nature Communications. You can read the article in its entirety at the last link, below.
Scientists had theorized for years that there was probably a relative of the T.rex that had not yet been discovered that had an elongated snout, but previous to the finding of a nearly complete adult fossil skeleton of a P.rex, they had only the evidence of two juvenile skulls to go by. Counter-arguments went that the juvenile skulls were perhaps just elongated in appearance because the dinosaurs hadn’t grown bodies yet to match their heads. At first, the juvenile examples discovered in 2009 were called Alioramus dinosaurs, rather than being recognized as members of the tyrannosaurid family.
Fossil remains of an almost adult specimen of the Pinocchio rex, found in southern China near the city of Genzhou, offered the proof needed to confirm that it and the two previously discovered juvenile skulls belonged to the T. rex family tree. The adult specimen was two times as big as the juvenile ones, which had been found in Mongolia.
How did the Pinocchio rex size up compared to the T. rex?
The Pinocchio rex was not as large as the T. rex, but it was still a fearsome predator, weighing in at around a ton. The dinosaur would have been about 30 feet in length. It lived alongside the T.rex approximately 66 million years ago. The two cousins apparently got along with each other, as they didn’t compete for the same prey animals, co-existing kind of like lions and cheetahs do in Africa today. P.rex had powerful jaws, and long teeth, more narrow than those of the T.rex.
The discovery of Pinocchio rex was made by researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Besides the longer snout of the Pinocchio rex, compared to the snout of a T. rex, according to a co-author of the study in an interview with The Washington Post, Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, the P.rex “had a row of horns on its nose.” He added that the Pinoccio rex would have not only been “as deadly as any other tyrannosaur,” the long-nosed carnivore might have even been “a little faster and stealthier.”
According to another co-author of the study, Junchang Lu of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said that finding the two juvenile specimens in Mongolia and the nearly adult one close to the city of Genzhou offers proof that these relatives of the T.rex were “widely distributed” throughout Asia.
With the discovery of this long-snouted relative of the T.rex, which scientist have termed Pinocchio rex in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, an entirely new branch of the T.rex family tree was created. As more digs continue to uncover new species in Asia, the University of Edinburgh researchers believe more dinosaurs will be found with long snouts, and will help fill out gaps in the fossil record.
Written by: Douglas Cobb