China in the News: T-Rex and Fossils

From confiscated relics of the past to discovering a cousin of the mighty T-Rex, China has been in the news for events surrounding the dinosaur. In this article, you will learn more information about unlocking the ancestral past of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and where illegally removed fossils ended up at and where they’ll be going.

Smaller T-Rex Found

In the region now known as the northeastern part of China, a miniature-sized Tyrannosaurus rex roamed amongst the giants of the dinosaur world. The creature lived about 125 million years ago and weighed around 150 pounds. When compared to the giant T-Rex that came along millions of years later, it doesn’t seem like much, but this early predator definitely gave prey a run for their money.

Last week, the small T-Rex was discussed for the first time in ScienceExpress , the online version of the journal Science. This new addition to the dinosaur family tree has been given the name ‘Raptorex kriegsteini.’ Similar in every way to its larger cousin, the Raptorex possess a large head, tiny arms, and trademark feet , all on a smaller scale , the dinosaur is believed to have stood a gangly 9 feet tall.

Fossil hunters in northern China were the lucky excavators to uncover the remains, which they then smuggled out of the country and offered to collector Henry Kriegstein (a Massachusetts resident) for sale. This is where the second part of the dinosaur’s name comes from. Kriegstein donated the materials to science and the Raptorex will eventually make its way back to China.

A single block of stone surrounded the fossil, which gave researchers an opportunity to investigate its original location. The fusing of the bones suggests that the creature was five or six when it died , nearly the age of an adult for this species. A representative of the American Museum of Natural History adds that it would have matured at the age of eight or 10 and considered an old dinosaur when reaching 20 years old.

Researchers now know that the tiny arms associated with the T-Rex did not evolve over time and were present in earlier forms of the dinosaur. The Raptorex is classified as a predator, where some scientists like to debate on whether or not the T-Rex was a predator or a scavenger. The find has caused a stir amongst dino experts, where some are still cautious of the discovery. For example, John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University stated that the drawing of the Raptorex shows more differences than just a smaller size from the T-Rex, but stands by the theory that the Raptorex was an ancestor of one of the most feared dinosaurs in history.

Thanks to the Whitten-Newman Foundation and the National Geographic Society, funding for this project was made possible.

Another Chinese-Related Headline

Last week, it was reported that U.S. Customs officials are going to return fossils to China dating back to as early as 100 million years ago that found their way into the country illegally. In the collection, China will reclaim bones of a saber-toothed cat, the partial skull of a dinosaur, and eggs of several other dinosaurs. Thanks to Homeland Security Department custom agents and a routine cargo search, the undocumented relics were discovered in two different shipments and were immediately confiscated.