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Aorun zhaoi : New Species of Meat-Eating Dinosaur Found in China

By Julie S | May 05, 2013 03:56 PM EDT

Fossils Discovered in China
Fossils Discovered in China Classified as New Species of Meat-Eating Dinosaur. (Photo : James Clark, George Washington University)

A biologist from George Washington University discovered fossil remains in Xianjing province in the northwestern side of China which may be the first among the species of theropods or meat-eating dinosaurs.

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The international research team unearthed the fossils of this dinosaur--an incomplete skeleton, a skull, and a mandible-last 2006. This discovery may help establish the link between lizard-like dinosaurs and the feathered dinosaurs that were existent during the late Jurassic Period. However, this discovery was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology only this 2013.

The research team named the species Aorun zhaoi after a Chinese mythological god. They also analyzed the fossils which look like a small bipedal predator possibly feeding on lizards, crocodiles and mammals based on its numerous small pointed teeth.

Upon further diagnostic analysis of the fossils, this theropod may reach 1 meter tall and weigh 1.5 kg. It was actually a young dinosaur, almost just a year old when it died. The eye sockets are drawn to the front based on the hollow of the skull opening, the teeth were very small, the neck is concaved behind, and the claws are different with the thumb larger than the other two.

This was an unexpected discovery for the team as the fossils were buried in the rocks and only a small portion of its leg was visible in the surface. The Aurons were believed to have inhabited the Earth around 161.5 million years ago.

There were other therapods discovered from China years ago such as the Guanlong, Haplocheirus, Sinraptor, Zuolong, Limusaurus and Monolophosaurus. However, the Auron is the smallest.

To date, this is the fifth therapod discovered by the research team from George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences headed by Dr. James Clark and Dr. Xuxing with members Jonah Choiniere, Catherine Forster, Mark Norell, David Eberth, Gregory Erickson, and Chuc Hongjun.

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