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Hidden Dragon found in China

(Emphasis mine)


NEW YORK - Scientists say they've found the earliest known tyrannosaur, shedding light on the lineage that produced the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. The discovery comes with a puzzle: Why did this beast have a strange crest on its head?

Digging in the badlands of northwestern China that appeared in the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," researchers found two skeletons of a creature that lived some 160 million years ago. That's more than 90 million years before T. rex came along.

A two-legged meat-eater, the beast was far smaller than T. rex, measuring about 10 feet from its snout to the tip of its tail and standing about 3 feet tall at the hip. It also sported relatively long, three-fingered arms, rather than the two-fingered stubby arms T. rex had. Scientists suspect it had feathers because related dinosaurs did.

The discovery is reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The big surprise, said study co-author James Clark of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was the finding of a narrow, delicate, largely hollow crest on its head. While other dinosaurs have had similar features, this one was unusually large and elaborate for a two-legged meat-eater, Clark and co-authors wrote.

Nobody knows its purpose, but it was probably some kind of display to other members of its own species, said Clark, co-leader of 2002 expedition that found the beast.

The researchers named the creature Guanlong wucaii, from the Chinese words for "crown" and "dragon," referring to the crest, and for "five colors," from the multi-hued badlands where the creature was found.

Because it preserves anatomical features from its ancestors that were lost in T. rex and other tyrannosaurs, the primitive beast helps scientists understand where tyrannosaurs fit in the evolutionary tree, said an expert not involved in the discovery.

"This is the best look so far at the ancestral condition from which the tyrant dinosaurs, T. rex and company, evolved," said the expert, Thomas Holtz Jr. of the University of Maryland.

Along with some other finds, the creature helps illustrate the sequence of anatomical changes that occurred along the way to the later, more specialized tyrannosaurs, said Philip Currie of the University of Alberta in Canada.

Ken Carpenter, curator of lower vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, said he tentatively accepts the creature as a tyrannosaur but isn't convinced of its age. It could be much younger, he said. Clark said that other data, not yet published, support the proposed age of 160 million years.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 10th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
I love dinos too. Because they speak of a time when humans didn't exist and yet the world still grew and changed. I'm so curious. And some scientists believe there's enough time in earth's history for other life that we couldn't imagine or find evidence for. That opens the possibility for other intelligent creatures, like us, erased by history.
Feb. 10th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Star Trek: Voyager has an episode where they found a race of sentient dinosaurs that escaped the mass extinction. They had the species being herbivores, but frankly, without planimals, I don't see how herbivores could become sentient and sapient.

There's enough evidence to suggest that humans were once technological, fell back to being primitive, and had to start from scratch. Stories of Atlantis tell of a war between Atlantis and a group of people who were making chimaera soldiers... which suggests genetic engineering.

I've heard it said that technological societies are the easiest to destroy, and leave almost no traces behind. Or they would be, anyway. Considering the quality of modern technology, I don't doubt it for a minute.
Feb. 11th, 2006 04:36 am (UTC)
Mmhmm and there were, theoretically, other ape-related creatures which no longer exist. If humans evolved from apes then maybe there were other apes closer to our intelligence.
Feb. 11th, 2006 12:23 pm (UTC)
I think Bigfoot is real, and is a close relative. Maybe a missing link, even.
Feb. 11th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
That would be interesting.
Feb. 10th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
Also, there was this thing on History Channel about this guy who made all these awesome machines back in Ancient Greek days. He even harnessed the power of steam! Had he realized the potential of what steam power could do (beyond that of the toy he invented), he could have started the industrial revolution almost 2000 years early!
Feb. 11th, 2006 04:32 am (UTC)
Re: PS
Imagine the advances we could have made...
Feb. 11th, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC)
Re: PS
Really. But of course, we might have blown ourselves to hell by now for all we know.
Feb. 10th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
I like that theory, Melon.
Feb. 10th, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC)
T-Rex as a fearsome creature is a funny concept. I bet a reasonably skilled human could duck the adult ones most of the time.
Feb. 10th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC)
I'm all for the theory of T-Rex being scavengers, myself. There's no way they could have held down any prey.
Feb. 11th, 2006 04:38 am (UTC)
Yes. It's also possible that they hunted larger, slower dinosaurs (thus not just scavengers). Still kinda pathetic though.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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