Goofy dinosaur blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks
Nearly 50 years ago, scientists found bones of two large, powerful dinosaur arms. They figured they had discovered a fearsome critter with killer claws.
Now scientists have found the rest of the dinosaur. And they have new descriptions for it. Call it goofy and weird.
The beast probably lumbered along on two legs. It was like a cross between TV dinosaur Barney and Jar Jar Binks of Star Wars fame. It was 16 feet tall and 36 feet long. It weighed 14,000 pounds. It had a duckbill on its head. And a hump-like sail on its back. Throw in those killer claws, tufts of feathers here and there, and no teeth. Then try not to chuckle.
And if that's not enough, it ate like a giant vacuum cleaner.
That's Deinocheirus mirificus. The name is pronounced DY-noh-KY-ruhs mur-IHF-ee-kuhs. What a mouthful! It means "terrible hands that look peculiar." It is newly reimagined after a full skeleton was found in Mongolia and described in a paper released by the journal Nature. How old is it? About 70 million years. It's an ancestral relative of the modern ostrich. It belongs to the dinosaur family often called ostrich dinosaurs.
"Deinocheirus turned out to be one the weirdest dinosaurs beyond our imagination," study lead author Yuong-Nam Lee said in an email.
In 1965, scientists found the first forearm bones. They were nearly 8 feet long. Many scientists envisioned "a creature that would strike terror in people," said University of Maryland dinosaur expert Thomas Holtz Jr. "Now it's a creature that would strike bemusement, amazement."
And yes, he said, "it's pretty goofy."
Lee figures the tilted wide hips and massive feet show that Deinocheirus was a slow mover. It probably grew so big to escape from being eaten by bigger dinosaurs.
It had a beak that could eat plants. But it also had a massive tongue. That created suction for vacuuming up food, Lee wrote.