Zhuchengtyrannus is here!

Zhuchengtyrannus life reconstruction by Bob Nicholls

So, as probably everyone knows by now, I have a new paper out and this is the first dinosaur I have named (as a first author) so welcome please, Zhuchengtyrannus magnus. This is a very large tyrannosaurine theropod that is comparable in size to that legendary source of all dinosaur comparisons: Tyrannosaurus rex. Yep, Zhuchengtyrannus, (or ZT as I’ve been informally calling it) is a big guy with a skull over a metre in length, in the 10 metre range for total length and thus also probably around 6 tons or so.

Obviously this is a big deal for me so there’s lots more to come on this over the next few posts and so don’t panic if this first introduction doesn’t give you all the details you were hoping for. Despite the apparent paucity of the available material (as will become clear) there is a lot that can be said about this and other things that are mentioned in the paper.

First off is that name. Those who are long time readers will know I’m not at all fond of ‘place-name-saurus’ type names but some of us are born with bad names for dinosaurs, some achieve bad dinosaur names, and (in this case) some have bad names thrust upon them! Anyway, if you’ve not guessed the genus name Zhuchengtyrannus simple means ‘tyrannosaur from Zhucheng’ and the species ‘magnus’ refers to the large size. Zhucheng, if you don’t know, is a small town in eastern China and has recently achieved fame for the huge amount of dinosaur fossils that have been found there and this is the latest of a number of new taxa. It’s can be pronounced as either ‘Zoo-cheng-tie-rannus’, or with more of a ‘Joo’ for the first syllable. The latter being closer to the formal Chinese pronunciation of the name, the former a less formal anglicised one.

Locality map for Zhuchengtyrannus. From Hone et al., in press

On that note, while 2010 was celebrated as the year of ceratopsians by many, it should not be overlooked the huge number of tyrannosaurs that have cropped up in the last year or so. Teratophoneus, Raptorex, Xiongguanlong, Sinotyrannus, Bistahieversor and others have all come through recently which adds massively to the number of tyrannosaurs of various ranks in the literature. That’s quite an increase for a clade known from only about 15 species or so as little as 3 years ago and now you can rack up two more. Yes, two.

Zhuchengtyrannus maxilla (bone above, cast below). From Hone et al., in press

As for Zhuchengtyrannus itself, I’m a few paragraphs in and have yet to talk about the thing yet. It is, sadly, represented by a less than complete specimen – we have a near complete maxilla (above) and a dentary (below), both with most of the teeth intact. The maxilla is one of the main bones of the face that makes up most of the side of the snout and holds most of the teeth for the upper jaws, while the dentary is the main part of the lower jaw that again, holds the teeth. That’s not much, but happily (as I’ll be covering in a later post) tyrannosaur maxillae are full of important taxonomic characters and as a result we are quite happy with this being diagnostic as a new genus and species. While that’s not much the material we do have is in great condition (well, more on that too). As noted it is a big one and comparisons to the maxillae and dentaries of other tyrannosaurs show that it’s bigger than anything out there except Tyrannosaurs and Tarbosaurus and it’s comparable in size to both of them. Obviously there’s just one specimen here and there are bigger specimens of Tyrannosaurs at least, but this is right in the mix. There’s nothing really odd or unusual about ZT so we it is ‘basically’ just another giant tyrannosaurine in the mould of these two more famous giants.

Zhuchengtyrannus dentary. From Hone et al., in press

But it’s not the only one. While we don’t describe it or figure it, we do mention in the paper that ZT is one of, what we think, are two new tyrannosaurs at the site. In addition to the elements of Zhuchengtyrannus, there are a variety of teeth and postcranial elements including vertebrae, femora and various metatarsals. Significantly there are also another maxilla and another dentary, neither of which match ZT or those of other tyrannosaurs meaning there are probably two taxa here. However, it also complicates that postscranial material – with these pieces being isolated and there being two genera present, it’s not possible to assign them to one or the other reliably at the moment. Thus there quite probably is a lot more of Zhuchengtyrannus already in our possession, but we can’t prove it, limiting us (for now) to just the skull pieces that were found together.

Between these new taxa and others recently described Asia now seriously rivals north America in the tyrannosauroid diversity stakes. While that’s perhaps not a big surprise in the basal tyrannosauroid stakes which already had a strong Asian base and were not that big in the Americas, that the tyrannosaurids and tyrannosaurines are catching up in diversity is rather more notable. No longer is Tarbosaurus the only Cretaceous giant tyrannosaurine in Asia, so once more I must ask you to please welcome Zhuchnegtyrannus to the world and do come back, there’s lots more to say.


Hone, D.W.E., Wang, K., Sullivan, C., Zhao, X., Chen, S., Li, D., Ji, S., Ji, Q. & Xu, X. 2011. A new, large tyrannosaurine theropod from the Upper Cretaceous of China. Cretaceous Research, in press.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2011.03.005


And of course, my thanks to Bob Nicholls of Paleocreations for the magnificent artwork. And thanks to those bloggers who have held off on their own posts on this before I was ready, it’s very much appreciated. I should also make a final extra point that once again a journal has stuck up an uncorrected proof of a paper – I can see already that a rather critical part of one table has been cut off and there are a couple of errors that need fixing which is why I don’t like these things.

48 Responses to “Zhuchengtyrannus is here!”

  1. 1 Matt Martyniuk 01/04/2011 at 12:27 am

    Congrats! Very cool specimen. I don’t have the paper yet, but were you able to compare these to “Tyrannosaurus” zuchengensis, from (presumably) the same formation?

    • 2 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 8:21 am

      Yep. Though I’ve just realised thanks to your comment that I’ve not mentioned this in the planned taxonomy post for today. Quick rewrite due! Thanks.

  2. 3 mattvr 01/04/2011 at 12:37 am

    Really like Bob’s Zhuchnegtyrannus, great combination of colour and patterning.

  3. 5 Marc Vincent 01/04/2011 at 12:40 am

    Congratulations Dave! This is indeed exciting.

  4. 6 Doug 01/04/2011 at 2:58 am

    Yeah, congrats on the new paper. And tell Bob his illustration kicks all kinds of ass!

  5. 7 Brett 01/04/2011 at 4:02 am

    Coolness! Can’t wait to read more!

  6. 8 Eric 01/04/2011 at 7:51 am

    Why didn’t you name the other Tyrannosaur?

    • 9 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 8:24 am

      Quite simply because it would have made the paper much longer and more complicated and we wanted to get this done and sorted out relatively quickly for a variety of reasons. The other paper is well in hand though and we hope to have that submitted in the next few months (though I’ll not be the lead on that).

  7. 10 Kattato Garu 01/04/2011 at 8:26 am

    That’s an awesome find. Congratulations!

  8. 11 Jaime A. Headden 01/04/2011 at 9:21 am

    Dave, great post! (Too early for a All Fools’ joke 😉 ). I await the published paper eagerly.

    • 12 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 9:28 am

      Yeah, we realised too late we should have warned the media it wasn’t. Sending it out on the 31st should have done it, but a couple of reporters phone and half jokingly asked if this was a gag.

      I await said paper too, technically I have still yet to receive the proofs myself….

  9. 13 Mark Wildman 01/04/2011 at 9:22 am

    Nice one Dave – can never have too many tyrannosaurs in my opinion. Its always interesting how similar tyrannosaur postcrania is and not that diagnostic unless associated with skull material.

    • 14 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 9:30 am

      Well some are better than others I think (the hands especially if you at least think to tyrannosauroid level)but yeah, we were lucky to get a really diagnostic maxilla. If you had to have jsut one element I think it’s the one I’d pick. A braincase would arguably be better but then you’d have to describe it and man I hate those things.

  10. 15 Brad McFeeters 01/04/2011 at 12:37 pm

    What do you mean when you say the name was thrust upon you? Did you want to call it something else, but get outvoted by your coauthors?

    • 16 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 1:17 pm

      More or less. Well, less, but I don’t really want to labour the point.

      • 17 Tim Donovan 01/04/2011 at 6:24 pm

        Too bad Sinotyrannus was already taken. It would’ve made a better name for this new tyrannosaur. Still, Zhuchengtyrannus is IMO better than possible alternatives like Wangshityrannus. Why not name it Honesaurus?–easier to remember and just as euphonious. 🙂

  11. 18 Tim Donovan 01/04/2011 at 1:43 pm

    Isn’t 6 tons a bit heavy for a tyrannosaur of 10m length? GSP estimated that PIN 551-1 (which I assume is comparable)was a ton lighter in life.

    • 19 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 1:58 pm

      Well without being too mean, I’m not very convinced by many of those estimates and certainly Paul favours what many people would call hyper-gracile reconstructions for this tyrannosaurs. There have been reasonable estimates closer to 8 t for similarly sized Tyrannosaurus specimens, so I don’t think 6 is that far out. it is, obviously, a guesstimate, we’ve done nothing serious to work out the size of this beyond compare a few skull bits and estimate from better sources. Plus don’t forget that predators regularly change mass substantially over a year or two through hard and good times, so even an animal that is weighed exactly to 6 t today, might be 6.5 or more, or 5.5. or less a few months down the line.

  12. 20 Mike Walley 01/04/2011 at 3:48 pm

    A fascinating insight and a bit of a teaser as we await to hear more about the other Tyrannosaur material.

  13. 21 Terry Flint 01/04/2011 at 4:07 pm

    Can I ask you if this image is available for public use (assuming you are cited of course). I’m asking for the sake of contributing to wiki articles on the subject.

    • 22 David Hone 01/04/2011 at 4:13 pm

      I’m not the person to ask I’m afraid, bob Nicholls owns the copyright to the image so it’d be up to him. Obviously as part of this we told the media they were free to use this image, if credited, for this one-shot deal. For anything open source etc. like Wikipedia it’d be Bob’s decision, not mine.

  14. 23 Zach Miller 01/04/2011 at 7:01 pm

    Wonderful new animal, Dave. Congrats! Like I said in the last post, I’m constantly surprised by how diverse the Tyrannosauridae is turning out to be.

  15. 25 Erin 01/04/2011 at 11:29 pm

    Question: you say it’s comparable to the largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimens…but Sue is 40+ ft long. Without much postcranial material I understand that it’d be difficult to estimate the size of the body, but for a 3-4 ft long skull and a 30ft long estimated body length…it doesn’t sound like it’s of a comparable size to the largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimens to me.

    Feel free to clear up any confusion I have if I’m mistaken, I’m happy to be wrong! This also may be coming from not having access to the actual paper.


    • 26 David Hone 02/04/2011 at 8:14 am


      You’ve misread this a little. I say it’s comparable to Tyrannosaurus, but I didn’t say it’s comparable to the largest specimens. It is in fact rather smaller than Sue, but the same size as several smaller rexes. I’ll be writing more about this very issue in another day or two, so all will be explained in more detail then.

      • 27 Erin 02/04/2011 at 5:58 pm

        Thanks, David!

        I had just read the article on this over at ScienceDaily and it had said it was comparable to the largest theropods ever described….so I suppose that’s where my confusion came from. I must have added it in to your post here.

        Thanks for clearing it up! Darn media…never really gets anything right.


      • 28 David Hone 02/04/2011 at 6:50 pm

        Well there are a few bigger ones yeah, but in general terms it’s comparable to the biggest. Smaller than Sue and Spinosaurus etc. yes, but bigger than almost all the rest so I don’t think it’s an unfair statement if a little exaggerated.

  16. 29 Robert Tedders 04/04/2011 at 10:11 pm

    Hi Dave. I already said this but congratulations again!! Is this other tryannosaur similar in size to ZT or slightly smaller?

  17. 31 Sergio Biston 09/04/2011 at 9:19 pm

    Zhuchengtyrannus made news in Brazil! Congrats to You,Dave. Here´s the link to your dinossaur headline on UOL, Brazil´s biggets net provider;

  18. 33 Robert Tedders 10/04/2011 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Dave. Regarding Sergio’s comment, you also made the Yahoo! UK&Ireland frontpage during the week. I forgot to tell you on at the Tues. lab – ooops!!

  19. 34 12 year old 20/06/2011 at 10:03 pm

    Dr. hone, do you think that this dinosaur will be the next big thing?

  20. 37 vasika 25/04/2012 at 3:45 pm

    Hi i just read that giganotosaurus is slightly smaller than carcharodontosaurus wuile going through wikipedia recently. I always did assume that there was barely any dimensional difference between the two and i am not a guy who goes around saying and thinking, “oh yyeah this thing’s bigger so it’s more awesome!!!” And stuff like that, but at the moment, i am kinda taking wikipedia stuff with a pinch of salt and speculation. Just wanna clarify.

  1. 1 Paleontologists have found T-Rex’s Cousin | Speak for Change Trackback on 01/04/2011 at 7:32 am
  2. 2 Notes on the taxonomy and identity of Zhuchengtyrannus « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 01/04/2011 at 9:47 am
  3. 3 OK, so I’m just milking it now – final Zhuchengtyrannus roundup « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 05/04/2011 at 10:00 am
  4. 4 Problems with advanced publication « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 08/04/2011 at 9:24 am
  5. 5 Zhuchengtyrannus art II « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 17/04/2011 at 4:48 pm
  6. 6 Zhucheng week: starting with Shantungosaurus « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 04/07/2011 at 1:13 am
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