New dinosaur looks like odd mix of duck, croc, ostrich, swan
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A new dinosaur species has been uncovered by scientists. It looks like something Dr. Seuss could have dreamed up. It had a bill like a duck. But it had teeth like a croc. It had a swanlike neck. And it had killer claws.
It also had flippers like a penguin. It walked like an ostrich. And it could swim. That's the first time swimming ability has been shown for a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur.
It was a tiny creature. It was only about 18 inches tall. It roamed 75 million years ago. It was in what is now Mongolia. Its full curled-up skeleton was found in a sandstone rock.
"It's such a peculiar animal." That's according to Dennis Voeten. He is a paleontology researcher. He works at Palacky University. That is in the Czech Republic. "It combines different parts we knew from other groups into this one small animal."
It was described in a study released last Wednesday by the journal Nature. Voeten and coauthors named it Halszkaraptor escuilliei (HAHL-shka-rap-tor ES-key-lay-ee) or "Halszka." It was named for the late Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska.
Kristi Curry Rogers called it "a pretty crazy chimera. It has a swan neck and dinosaur body, but with a mouthful of tiny teeth and hands and feet that look like they might be good for swimming." Kristi is a paleontologist. She works at Macalester College. It is in St. Paul. That is in Minnesota. Kristi didn't participate in the study.
Its mashup body let it run and hunt on the ground and fish in fresh water. That's according to Paul Tafforeau. He was the study co-author. He's a paleontologist. He works at the ESRF. It is known as the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, a powerful X-ray generator where numerous tests were made on the fossil.
The lead author is Andrea Cau. He is a paleontologist. He works at the Geological Museum Capellini. It is in Bologna. That is in Italy. He said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil's authenticity. He doubted it for two reasons. First, because of its appearance. And second, the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia. It was left in a private collector's hands.
"I asked myself, 'Is this a real, natural skeleton, or an artifact, a chimera? If this is a fake, how could I demonstrate it?'" Cau said in an email. "Assuming it was a fake instead of starting assuming that the fossil is genuine was the most appropriate way to start the investigation of such a bizarre fossil."
So researchers used the Synchrotron. They used it to create three-dimensional images of the fossil. It showed the creature was indeed a single animal. It was not a concoction built up from several sources. For example, an arm hidden in the rock perfectly matched the visible left arm. And lines indicating growth matched up across the bones.
Even though the creature wasn't dreamed up by Dr. Seuss, it got a blessing from a Dr. Sues.
Hans Sues is a paleontologist. She works at the Smithsonian Institution. She wasn't part of the research. She praised the work. She said it "shows again how amazingly diverse dinosaurs were."