'Pinocchio Rex' is interesting for a couple of reasons. It is from south China and dates to probably the Maastrichtian or pretty darn late in the Cretaceous. Given the size of Asia compared to other land masses in those times and the increasing pace of discoveries from that part of the world I would not be surprised if we do not get more interesting dinos coming down the pipeline from that part of the world. Andrea Cau is likely right and Quianzhousaurus is probably just a species of Alioramus. Never the less it is the largest discovered of these longirostrine (long skulled) tyrannosauroids found so far and clears up some doubt about that skull type being an ontogenetic feature of the youngsters- clearly the adults shared the same style of skull.
Now that we have a well established clade of long snouted medium sized tyrannosauroids, the Alioramini, we can start asking why? They clearly were doing something different than deep snouted t-rex and ilk. Small game seems probable, maybe even fishing was habitual? I am of the notion that unless we have resounding data that a predator specialized on one particular prey item, an opportunistic, generalist strategy is most likely. Including scavenging. Let's revisit scavenging for a second, one of the more lively debates in tyrannosaur ecology. Here you have a long snouted critter, probably with a good sense of smell, and it lived with a bunch of other big dinos- I believe there was some mega-hadrosaurids and titanosaurs it shared the habitat with (correct me in the comments if someone knows better)? Even if it could not hunt the adults of those species would it not make an excellent scavenger of leftover meals from larger tyrannosaurs or found, rotting carcasses? Would not that narrow, long skull work great poking into rotting dino carcasses? Would that not be a little ironic if the penultimate scavenging tyrannosauroid actually had a skull very far removed from the traditional deep-snouted variety? Playing on this idea I did a rough sketch in my typical punk rock fashion of no more that 1/2 hour spent on it of a 'P-rex' plunging its snout into the body of a bloated dead dinosaur the best and most effective way scavengers then and now know how to do... through the poop shoot. Or if you will the catch all opening for archosaurs the cloaca. Yeah I went there, a dinosaur sticking its head up another dinosaurs ass. Somebody had to do it.
Hey why not? Pinocchio was still a big animal at about 9 meters long so it would not waste a good feed. And like I said this type of carcass utilization is not without precedent and if anything it is the rule rather than the exception- especially when faced with a big tough hide.
|Eating Giants:Elephant. Animal Planet link|
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