Officially named Qianzhousaurus sinensis, the newfound predator was -- like his cousin T. rex -- a ferocious carnivore. Pinocchio rex and T. rex lived side by side for roughly 66 million years, stalking and scavenging during the late Cretaceous period.
But while a full-grown Tyrannosaurus rex would have stretched some 42 feet in length, the spryer Pinocchio rex was 29 feet long and weighed roughly 1,800 pounds. Whereas the snout of T. rex was broad and bone-crunching, Pinocchio's was long, slender and adorned with small horns.
The newly unearthed Pinocchio skeleton was found at a Chinese construction site, and later identified by paleontologists at Edinburgh University in Scotland.
Scientists have previously dug up -- then unnamed -- Qianzhousaurus sinensis specimens in China and Mongolia, but the two dinos were adolescents and the fossil evidence wasn't conclusive enough to designate a new species. This new skeleton, however, was perfectly preserved in ancient dirt and was an adult with a full-formed nose -- confirming the new dinosaur as a species all its own, and not simply an adolescent T. rex.
"This is a different breed of tyrannosaur," said Steve Brusatte, a scientist from Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. "It has the familiar toothy grin of Tyrannosaurus rex, but its snout was much longer and it had a row of horns on its nose. 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."
The discovery of Brusatte and his dino-hunting colleagues is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications.