Sixty-six million years ago, T. rex had a goofy-looking cousin. Its nose, in particular, was so funny looking that scientists at Scotland's Edinburgh University nicknamed the skeleton "Pinocchio" when they dug it up in a construction site near Ganzhou in southern China.
The Qianzhousaurus sinensis—the dino's official title—shared many characteristics with T. rex, but had several very distinct characteristics. Pinocchio's snout was 35 percent longer than that of other dinosaurs its size, and the creature had a leaner muscle build.
"It had the familiar toothy grin of T. rex, but its snout was long and slender, with a row of horns on top," Edinburgh University's Steve Brusatte told BBC News. "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."
What can Pinocchio tell us about the tyrannosaur? Researchers believe there were many subgroups of the famous T. rex with longer snouts that hunted together.
"The new discovery is very important," says Junchang Lu, a professor at the Institute of Geology at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences. “Along with Alioramus from Mongolia, it shows that the long-snouted tyrannosaurids were widely distributed in Asia.”
Scientists expect more dinosaurs to be added to the group as excavations in Asia continue to identify new species.
"This is the slam dunk we needed: The long-snouted tyrannosaurs were real," Brusatte says.
That is, if Pinocchio rex's skeleton is telling the truth.