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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 14:24 GMT
Baby T. rex discovered
The pelvic bone of the skeleton pokes through The pelvic bone of the skeleton pokes through

A gangly, 500kg baby with massive bone-crushing teeth is discovered in the US - the most complete skeleton of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex ever found.

"It really did knock my socks off," said palaeontologist Robert Bakker, who works with the Wyoming Dinamation Society.

He has seen the specimen and added: "You're getting a window into the childhood of the world's favourite dinosaur."

This baby T. rex, from the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs, has strong teeth This baby T. rex, from the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs, has strong teeth
Mr Bakker estimates the skeleton could be up to 90% complete. It was found last year by a team led by a private Houston palaeontologist, Mike Harrell, who died recently.

Mr Bakker believes the dinosaur died about 66 million years ago. The animal probably weighed about a quarter "as much as Dad," he said. This would be between 550 and 680 kilograms (1,200 to 1,500 pounds) and it measured about seven metres from the tip of its tail to the snout.

It is clearly a juvenile because of some unfused backbone vertebrae, he said. The specimen shows that juvenile T. rex was "quite gangly, particularly long in the shin and ankle".

The adults would kill prey for the babies The adults would kill prey for the babies
But "the jaws are 100% adult," armed with "massive bone-crushing teeth". That suggests it ate an adult diet, even though it does not appear strong enough to wrestle large prey to the ground said Mr Bakker. It appears that its parents would have captured the baby's prey.

Until now, scientists had never found a complete "or even a good skeleton" of a juvenile T. rex. But tyrannosaur expert Thomas Holtz, of the University of Maryland, noted that fairly complete skeletons have been found for juveniles of other tyrannosaurs.

Nonetheless, Dr Holtz said the find "would indeed be a big deal."

The finding will help scientists understand the life cycle of the enormous dinosaur, such as its growth patterns.

The dinosaur is still encased in rock but is now at a laboratory, where its bones are being painstakingly exposed. Ron Frithiof who owns the lab is an amateur fossil-hunter and a rancher near San Antonio and was a part of the team that unearthed the baby T. rex.

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See also:
03 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Biggest dinosaur identified
11 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
'Striking' dinosaurs found in Sahara
22 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
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Walking like a dinosaur

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