If you spent your childhood digging in the sandbox, carefully shifting sand in hopes of finding a long-lost quarter or bobble head, only to find both after going elbows-deep in dirt, you can appreciate the excitement an international team of researchers is experiencing, having recently discovered a new dinosaur species located in China. The dinosaur has been dubbed the Aorun zhaoi, and died before reaching adulthood.
The dinosaur’s name is said to be in homage of the Chinese story Journey to the West‘s Dragon King, which is about as noble of a name as any fossil can hope for. George Washington University’s James Clark lead the team that made the discovery, which says the unearthed dinosaur could prove to be an important link betwixt its feathered and lizard-esque brethren.
The fossil was discovered in Xinjiang, China, and is composed of the dinosaur’s partial skeleton and mandible. Said Clark: “All that was exposed on the surface was a bit of the leg. We were pleasantly surprised to find a skull buried in the rock too.” Being a juvenile, it measured in at about 3-feet in length and is said to have likely weight about 3lbs.
The fossil is estimated to be at least 161 million years old, hailing from the early Late Jurassic Period. Says the researchers, the jaw indicates a diet that was mostly composed of small creatures, such as lizards. The project was made possible the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation and the National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences. The findings were recently published in The Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.
[via George Washington University]