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Why the Long Face? New Dino Comes With Nose to Spare

Why the Long Face? New Dino Comes With Nose to Spare

When you think “dinosaurs,” you probably think of tyrannosaurids, those majestic, scary-as-heck monsters that put the “terrible” in “terrible lizard.” What you probably don’t think of is Pinocchio, but that might change after you get a look at Qianzhousaurus sinensis, aka “Pinocchio rex.”

Why the goofy common name? This striking predator had an unusual facial feature: an extremely long nose with large horny protrusions, all the better to…well, actually, scientists aren’t sure, but they sure do want to answer this classic question: “why the long face?”

Discovered in Southeastern China at a construction site, Pinocchio seems to have wandered parts of Asia during the Cretaceous period. (Sorry, Jurassic Park, but you got the wrong geological era.) These creatures may have achieved a height of nearly 30 feet in life, chasing a variety of prey, and if you think their size is impressive, they have even taller relatives, with massive jaws capable of making a snack of pretty much anything; there’s a reason some of the tyrannosaurids were likely apex predators in their day.

Unlike its heavily built relatives, Pinocchio rex was light and agile, with a smaller jaw and a corresponding reduction in jaw strength and bite power. Scientists believe this dinosaur species probably coexisted with close relatives, and there may have been some competition over prey species as dinosaurs squabbled to find their niches within the ecosystem. The advantages of the long nose aren’t immediately clear, but the light build may have conferred an upper hand in some fights, allowing Pinocchio rex to outrun and outmaneuver heavier, more solid competition.

The discovery of a nearly adult specimen also resolves some of the debate that’s been swirling around these dinosaurs. While archaeologists have uncovered juvenile dinos with suspiciously long noses in the past, they were’t sure if they were looking at a very strange juvenile dinosaur or an entirely new specimen. This finding confirms that Pinocchio rex came in a class by itself, and sheds new light into what the landscape would have looked like millions of years ago — complete with colorful scales and feathers, features scientists have been able to identify with the use of pigmentation studies.

This fascinating discovery just goes to show you that there really is something new every day, and sometimes that something is the fossilized remains of a truly giant dinosaur. Pinocchio sat around for millions of years, waiting for us to discover it, and a chance confluence of circumstances led to its finding.

Who knows what else might be out there, and what more we have to learn about prehistoric Earth? This case also illustrates the importance of conducting careful archaeological surveys at building sites before moving forward with construction, to ensure that important discoveries aren’t lost or destroyed.

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Photo credit of a related species, the well-known T-rex: Scott Kinmartin.

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46 comments

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11:43PM PDT on May 29, 2014

Sounds pretty straight forward to me. Increased sensed of smell, ability to dig mammals out of holes if there wasn't a lot of food readily available, and to catch fish.

10:37AM PDT on May 28, 2014

interesting

1:05PM PDT on May 25, 2014

Very interesting.

10:10AM PDT on May 25, 2014

Great & interesting find.

6:07AM PDT on May 25, 2014

very interesting, thank you.

5:38PM PDT on May 22, 2014

way cool

7:22AM PDT on May 22, 2014

Agreed Natasha S. I wonder how many creatures and plants humans will send extinct? Right now humans are responsible for the 6th mass extinction.

Sadly, it won't only be dinosaurs that we will be seeing in museums - elephants, tigers, rhinos, polar bears are all endangered .... and the list goes on and on :(

9:37PM PDT on May 21, 2014

Pictured above is not the Pinocchio rex. Still, I'd like to know if he'd like to trade dentures with me.

7:58PM PDT on May 21, 2014

Learning from the past.... noted thanks

7:06PM PDT on May 21, 2014

I have always loved going to the museum and seeing the dinosaur skeletons. As a child I wanted them to come to life! Now that is the last thing I would want. . .except for maybe in DC! LOL These big boys could clean a house fast!

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