New species of meat-eating dinosaur found in China

Updated: 2013-05-04 11:26


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WASHINGTON - Biologists said on Friday they have discovered the fossil remains of a baby dinosaur in China that represents a new species of small theropod, or meat-eating dinosaur.

Named Aorun zhaoi after the Dragon King in the Chinese epic tale Journey to the West, the youngster lived more than 161 million years ago, in the earliest part of the Late Jurassic Period. Its small, numerous teeth suggest that it would have eaten prey like lizards and small relatives of today's mammals and crocodilians.

In a research paper published in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology, researchers explained that they were able to recover the skull, mandible and partial skeleton of the dinosaur in 2006, in a remote region of Xinjiang in China. It measured just one meter long and weighed about 3 pounds, or about 1.3 kilograms.

"All that was exposed on the surface was a bit of the leg," said Professor James Clark at the George Washington University in a statement. "We were pleasantly surprised to find a skull buried in the rock too."

Microscopic details of Aorun's bones showed that the animal was less than a year old when it died on the banks of a stream, the researchers said.

This is the fifth new theropod discovered at the Wucaiwan locality by the team, co-led by Clark and Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.