'Tiny' new T-Rex ancestor found in China (w/ Video)

September 17, 2009
Weighing as little as 1/100th that of its descendant T. rex, 125-million year old Raptorex shows off the distinctive body plan of this most dominant line of predatory dinosaurs. This is based on a fossil skeleton discovered in Inner Mongolia, China. Credit: Drawing by Todd Marshall

(PhysOrg.com) -- A 9-foot dinosaur from northeastern China had evolved all the hallmark anatomical features of Tyrannosaurus rex at least 125 million years ago. University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno and five co-authors describe the newly discovered dinosaur in the Sept. 17 Science Express, advanced online edition of the journal Science.

Raptorex shows that tyrannosaur design evolved at "punk size," said Sereno, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, "basically our bodyweight. And that's pretty staggering, because there's no other example that I can think of where an animal has been so finely designed at about 100th the size that it would eventually become."

Raptorex displays all the hallmarks of its famous descendant, , including a large head compared to its torso, tiny arms and lanky feet well-suited for running. The Raptorex brain cast also displayed enlarged olfactory bulbs—as in T. rex—indicating a highly developed sense of smell.

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"It's really stolen from tyrannosaurids all the fire of the group," Sereno said. All that Raptorex left for its descendants is "a suite of detailed features largely related to getting bigger."

At only 9 feet in length, Raptorex already had the powerful jaws, puny arms, and quick legs of its much larger and more famous descendants. Credit: Drawing by Todd Marshall

Sereno marvels at the scalability of the tyrannosaur body type, which when sized up 90 million years ago completely dominated the predatory eco-niche in both Asia and North America until the great extinction 65 million years ago at the end of the .

"On other continents like Africa, you have as many as three large predators living in the same areas that split among them the job of eating meat," he said. But in Africa, the allosaurs never went extinct, as they did in North America, possibly presenting an evolutionary opportunity for Raptorex. "We have no evidence that it was a competitive takeover," said Sereno, "because we have never found large tyrannosaurs and allosaurs together."

Henry Kriegstein, a private collector, brought the nearly complete Raptorex skeleton to Sereno's attention after buying it from a vendor. After Sereno and colleagues finish amore detailed study of Raptorex, it will be returned to a museum in Inner Mongolia, the place where the fossil was illicitly excavated.

More information: Paul C. Sereno, Lin Tan, Stephen L. Brusatte, Henry J. Kriegstein, Xijin Zhao and Karen Cloward, "Tyrannosaurid Skeletal Design First Evolved at Small Body Size," early online edition of Science, Sept. 17, 2009.

Source: University of Chicago (news : web)

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Sep 17, 2009
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Sep 17, 2009
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4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 18, 2009
... it will be returned to a museum in Inner Mongolia, the place where the fossil was illicitly excavated"

Not a small detail.

This "Indiana Jones" form of science treasure hunting has to stop. It has caused enough trouble in the past and modern methods can be used to avoid such mistakes.

"Fencing" national property has to be made financially unprofitable, and "classification/authentication of materials of dubious origins" by credible universities and/or other authorities should become "bad science".

This "socially/academically acceptable" behaviour has real long-term consequences on international relations and now that the technology permits tracking of materials and transactions this "wink-wink" backdoor evidence gathering by the "institutions of our peers" should come to an end.

Unity of the political, social and academic systems of our world is technologically feasible and sociologically fundamental ... if we are to control resources and explore other worlds.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2009

Why does it have to stop? n It's not like there is any lack of fossils. Better to make it legal, regulated so finds can be studied, then sold.

If we wait for academics we will never find much.

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