New dinosaur looks like odd mix of duck, croc, ostrich, swan
A new dinosaur species has been uncovered by scientists. It looked like something Dr. Seuss could have dreamed up. It had a bill like a duck, but teeth like a croc. And it had a swanlike neck and killer claws.
It also had flippers like a penguin. And while it walked like an ostrich it could also swim. That's the first time swimming ability has been shown for a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur.
It was a tiny creature, only about 18 inches tall. It roamed 75 million years ago 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 at Palacky University 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 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 is a paleontologist at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She didn't participate in the study, but called it "a pretty crazy chimera: 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."
Its mashup body let it run and hunt on the ground and fish in fresh water, said study co-author Paul Tafforeau. He's a paleontologist at the ESRF, known as the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, a powerful X-ray generator where numerous tests were made on the fossil.
Lead author Andrea Cau is a paleontologist at the Geological Museum Capellini in Bologna, Italy. He said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil's authenticity, both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia and 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 to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the creature was indeed a single animal and 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 at the Smithsonian Institution who wasn't part of the research. She praised the work and said it "shows again how amazingly diverse dinosaurs were."