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T. Rex's Nimble, Long-Nosed Cousin, Pinocchio Rex, Unveiled as New Species

May 07, 2014 12:27 PM EDT

Tyrannosaurus rex had a long-nosed cousin that roamed the wilds of what is now China more than 66 million years ago.

A new study in the journal Nature Communications details the T. rex relative, a newly discovered species of carnivorous beast with a name that reflects its long, reptilian snout: Pinocchio rex.

Officially, the dinosaur is named Qianzhousaurus sinensis, but its slender, long and horn-studded nose and mouth full of sharp teeth earned the carnivore its distinctive nickname.

The Cretaceous-era creature was unearthed in southern China by a team of paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and the University of Edinburgh. Fossils of juvenile specimens with the same unusually long snout had been documented previously, but until the discovery of the latest skeleton - a nearly complete adult specimen, an extremely rare find - it could not be determined whether those juvenile skeletons were a unique species.

Pinocchio rex's discovery led the the creation of a new branch on the Tyrannosaurus family tree. The creature lived alongside its cousin T. rex, but the pair would not have been competitors for the same resources. At about 29 feet long and 1,800 pounds, Pinocchio was much smaller and more nimble than T. rex, which was around 42 feet long. T. rex had much stronger jaws than Pinocchio rex, and the two likely preyed upon different things.

"This is a different breed of tyrannosaur. It has the familiar toothy grin of T. rex, but its snout was much longer and it had a row of horns on its nose," study author Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, said in a statement. "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."

Brusatte said in an interview with the BBC that finding an such an intact specimen was a "one in a million" find, watch an interview with the paleontologist here.

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