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Scientists seek to solve mystery of Stegosaurus plates

Sophie: The most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world

Researchers hope to learn how much it weighed, how it moved and what it used its iconic back plates for.

A UK team has scanned each of its 360 bones into a computer and has digitally reconstructed the dinosaur. The specimen, nicknamed “Sophie”, has been acquired by the Natural History Museum in London. Although Stegosauruses are one of the most well known dinosaurs, they are among those that scientists know the least about. There are only six partial skeletons of the creature, which lived around 150 million years ago. It could grow to the size of a minibus and the gigantic plates which ran along its back were its most distinctive feature.

Stegosaurus: the outstanding questions

  • How did it use its back plates and tail spikes?
  • How effective were its muscles?
  • How did such a small skull manage to chew enough food for such a large body?
  • How much did it weigh?
 

Surprisingly, it was 100 years ago that the dinosaur’s skeleton was properly assessed and scientifically described. Now, using medical imaging techniques and 3D modelling, researchers at the Natural History Museum hope to learn much more about this iconic creature.

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Pinocchio rex

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New Tyrannosaur named ‘Pinocchio rex’

Pinocchio was smaller than T. rex but its nose was a third longer – perhaps for a different hunting strategy

A new type of Tyrannosaur with a very long nose has been nicknamed “Pinocchio rex”.

The ferocious carnivore, nine metres long with a distinctive horny snout, was a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Its skeleton was dug up in a Chinese construction site and identified by scientists at Edinburgh University, UK.

The 66-million-year-old predator, officially named Qianzhousaurus sinensis, is described in Nature Communications.

“Pinocchio” looked very different to other tyrannosaurs.

“It had the familiar toothy grin of T. rex, but its snout was long and slender, with a row of horns on top,” said Edinburgh’s Dr Steve Brusatte.

“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.

“We thought it needed a nickname, and the long snout made us think of Pinocchio’s long nose.”

Researchers now think several different tyrannosaurs lived and hunted alongside each other in Asia during the late Cretaceous Period, the last days of the dinosaurs.

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