Scientists say the 160-million-year-old animal, which had simple feathers and an elaborate head crest, is the oldest known tyrannosaur—a group of swift, flesh-eating dinos that culminated in T. rex some 90 million years later.
Two specimens of the previously unknown dinosaur have been found in the fossil-rich badlands of Xinjiang province in northwest China (map).
The primitive tyrannosaurs were discovered together. They appeared to have become fatally trapped in a prehistoric mud pit, according to Xing Xu, professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, China. The carnivores were possibly lured to their deaths by other mud-stricken animals, which also left behind fossil remains.
"This is an unbelievable discovery with tremendous new information on the evolution of the tyrannosaurs," Xu said.
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