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New tyrannosaur with a crest...



This critter has a *very* cool name, IMHO... :-)

Guy Leahy
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Early Version of T. Rex Is Discovered By MALCOLM
RITTER, AP Science Writer
25 minutes ago

Scientists say they've found the earliest known
tyrannosaur, shedding light on the lineage that
produced the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. The discovery
comes with a puzzle: Why did this beast have a strange
crest on its head?

Digging in the badlands of northwestern China that
appeared in the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon," researchers found two skeletons of a creature
that lived some 160 million years ago. That's more
than 90 million years before T. rex came along.

A two-legged meat-eater, the beast was far smaller
than T. rex, measuring about 10 feet from its snout to
the tip of its tail and standing about 3 feet tall at
the hip. It also sported relatively long,
three-fingered arms, rather than the two-fingered
stubby arms T. rex had. Scientists suspect it had
feathers because related dinosaurs did.

The discovery is reported in Thursday's issue of the
journal Nature.

The big surprise, said study co-author James Clark of
George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was
the finding of a narrow, delicate, largely hollow
crest on its head. While other dinosaurs have had
similar features, this one was unusually large and
elaborate for a two-legged meat-eater, Clark and
co-authors wrote.

Nobody knows its purpose, but it was probably some
kind of display to other members of its own species,
said Clark, co-leader of 2002 expedition that found
the beast.

The researchers named the creature Guanlong wucaii,
from the Chinese words for "crown" and "dragon,"
referring to the crest, and for "five colors," from
the multi-hued badlands where the creature was found.

Because it preserves anatomical features from its
ancestors that were lost in T. rex and other
tyrannosaurs, the primitive beast helps scientists
understand where tyrannosaurs fit in the evolutionary
tree, said an expert not involved in the discovery.

"This is the best look so far at the ancestral
condition from which the tyrant dinosaurs, T. rex and
company, evolved," said the expert, Thomas Holtz Jr.
of the University of Maryland.

Along with some other finds, the creature helps
illustrate the sequence of anatomical changes that
occurred along the way to the later, more specialized
tyrannosaurs, said Philip Currie of the University of
Alberta in Canada.

Ken Carpenter, curator of lower vertebrate
paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and
Science, said he tentatively accepts the creature as a
tyrannosaur but isn't convinced of its age. It could
be much younger, he said. Clark said that other data,
not yet published, support the proposed age of 160
million years.

___

On the Net:

Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature

Background on tyrannosaurs:

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/saurischia/tyrannosauridae.html