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New Species Of Tiny, Meat-eating Dinosaur Discovered In China

May 03, 2013 03:09 PM EDT

A species of carnivorous dinosaur uncovered on a 2006 dig in China's northwest has been declared a new species, according to a report from George Washington University, which was affiliated with the dig.

Researchers are calling the small theropod Aorun zhaoi, after the Dragon King in the Chinese epic tale "Journey to the West." The meat-eating dinosaur is thought to be just more than 3 feet long and weighed 3 pounds.

The diminutive dinosaur was recently declared as a new species after thorough analysis of the skull, mandible and partial skeleton of the creature.

"All that was exposed on the surface was a bit of the leg," said Dr. James Clark, who made the discovery. "We were pleasantly surprised to find a skull buried in the rock too."

The specimen died on the banks of a stream when it was less than a year old, according to Jonah Choiniere, who was part of the team that made the discovery.

Aorun lived more than 161 million years ago, in the earliest part of the Late Jurassic Period. Its small, numerous teeth suggest that it would have eaten prey like lizards and small relatives of today's mammals and crocodilians, a statement from George Washington University reported.

The Aorun is the fifth new theropod to have been discovered in the remote region of China.

The research is published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

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