- Title: CHINA: Scientists find oldest example of a Tyrannosaur in northwest China
- Date: 15th February 2006
- Summary: CLOSE UP OF XU XING CLEANING FOSSIL SKULL
- Embargoed: 2nd March 2006 12:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: History
- Reuters ID: LVA9VGWNK4WOIH8ZWQETGV0BX224
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- Story Text: A fossil dug up in a remote Chinese desert is being hailed as the earliest example yet of a Tyrannosaur.
The creature, named Guanlong wucaii which lived 160 million years ago, is believed to be a primitive ancestor of the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex.
A team of scientists from The George Washington University and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing reported their discovery in the science journal Nature last week.
They say Guanlong provides significant information about the evolution from dinosaurs to birds.
"Although a lot of evidence shows that dinosaurs evolved into birds, but as I have said before, most of the evidence is from the Cretaceous Period while the evolution happened during the Jurassic Period, there has been little evidence yet found from that period. Guanlong lived in the Jurassic period about 160 million years ago, so it helps put the evolution much further back," researcher Xu Xing from IVPP said.
Tyrannosaurus rex, the best-known tyrannosaur, lived 65 million to 70 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. Guanlong wucaii is 90 million years older.
Xu's team found two examples of the early tyrannosaur in the Junggar Basin in northwestern China, a cold desert that has been barely explored.
The two specimens were unearthed in August 2002. One specimen would have been about six years old and thus a juvenile, and the other a 12-year-old adult.
The creatures were about 10 feet (3 metres) long, compared to Tyrannosaurus rex, which reached lengths of 42 feet (14 metres). They do not have T-rex's shortened forelimbs.
Xu's team goes to the remote desert every year to do research. They stay there for two months each time - working under harsh conditions.
But Xu says the biggest threat is not from the elements, but from the growing trade in illegal fossil trafficking.
China has been plagued by a rampant fossil trafficking on the black market, causing millions of losses every year and untold setbacks for scientific research.
"Generally their digging process is illegal. Since the dig is illegal and mostly carried out by non-professionals, it can do a lot of damage to the fossils. Besides, some of the related geological information would be lost. When the fossils are trafficked out of China, they rarely reach scientists. I mean it is almost impossible for scientists to study these fossils. It would be a big loss for scientific research," Xu said.
The new dinosaur's name - Guanlong wucaii - is derived from the Mandarin Chinese word for "crowned dragon" and the second word in its name refers to the region where it was found.
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