Page last updated at 22:03 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Southern 'cousin' of T. rex found

T.rex (SPL)
Until now, Tyrannosaurs were known only from northern continents

Scientists have found the first evidence that tyrannosaur dinosaurs - relatives of the famous T. rex - existed in the southern hemisphere.

Previously, tyrannosaurs had only been known from fossil finds in northern continents, the team of researchers write in Science journal.

Now, a hip bone found in Australia has been identified as belonging to a southern relative of T. rex.

It came from an animal about 3m (9ft) long and weighing around 80kg (176lb).

This is much smaller than T. rex, which measured about 12m long and weighed around four tonnes. Giant size like this is thought to have evolved late in the tyrannosaur lineage.

The specimen, known only as NMV P186069, was unearthed at Dinosaur Cove, in Victoria, Australia. The fossil, which is around 110 million years old, lays to rest any doubt that tyrannosaurs inhabited the southern continents.

Dr Roger Benson, from the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK, said: "Although we only have one bone, it shows that 110 million years ago small tyrannosaurs like ours might have been found worldwide.

"This find has major significance for our knowledge of how this group of dinosaurs evolved."

Co-author Dr Paul Barrett, from London's Natural History Museum, commented: "The absence of tyrannosauroids from the southern continents was becoming more and more anomalous as representatives of other 'northern' dinosaur groups started to show up in the south.

"This find shows that tyrannosauroids were able to reach these areas early in their evolutionary history and also hints at the possibility that others remain to be discovered in Africa, South America and India."

During the time of the dinosaurs the continents gradually went from a single supercontinent towards something like their present-day arrangement.

This tyrannosaur is from the mid-stages of this continental break-up, when the southern continents of South America, Antarctica, Africa and Australia had separated from the northern continents, but had not separated from each other.

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