Fossil hunters in China find ‘tiny’ T. rex

FRIDAY, SEPT. 18, 2009

This undated handout illustration provided by Science shows a Raptorex.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
This undated handout illustration provided by Science shows a Raptorex. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

WASHINGTON – About 125 million years ago a tiny version of Tyrannosaurus rex roamed what is now northeastern China. Tiny, that is, by T. rex standards – you still wouldn’t want to meet it face to face.

Described by paleontologist Paul Sereno as “punk size,” this early predator would have weighed about 150 pounds.

It just seems small compared to the giant T. rex that evolved millions of years later and was as much as 100 times more massive.

“It really is the blueprint for the later (T. rex) dinosaurs,” Sereno said, “it was a blueprint that was scalable.”

Described for the first time in Thursday’s ScienceExpress, the online edition of the journal Science, the new dinosaur has been named Raptorex kriegsteini.

Sereno reports that Raptorex has all the hallmarks of T. rex, including a large head, tiny arms and lanky feet – just in a smaller size.

“What we’re looking at is a blueprint for a fast-running set of jaws,” Sereno said at a briefing arranged by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The giant T. rex dominated much of the planet from about 90 million years ago until the great extinction 65 million years ago.

Raptorex would have stood a lanky 9 feet tall, said Sereno, of the University of Chicago and also a National Geographic explorer in residence.

The newly described remains were found by fossil hunters in northern China, smuggled out of that country and offered for sale to collector Henry Kriegstein, of Higham, Mass., Sereno said. Kriegstein, for whom the animal is now named, donated the materials to science and they will be returned to China.

The fossil was encased in a single block of stone, Sereno said. That stone allowed the researchers to trace the find to its original location.

Sereno said Raptorex was a predator. Some scientists debate whether T. rex was a predator or scavenger.


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