Saturday December 09, 2017
New dinosaur had duck legs, a swan neck and penguin flippers
more stories from this episode
- Gene drive research could wipe out disease, or a species. Here's why the U.S. military funds it
- Abominable Snowman's true identity unmasked
- What connects Filipino hunter-gatherers and Hitchcock? The power of a good story
- New dinosaur had duck legs, a swan neck and penguin flippers
- Could we use rising sea water to flood desert regions?
- Full Episode
A new species of dinosaur that spent at least some time living in water has been found in present day Mongolia. The dinosaur — called Halszkaraptor — lived in the Cretaceous period 71 to 75 million years ago. Because the specimen had originally been poached, together with the fact that it is so unusual, paleontologists used a high-resolution synchrotron radiation scanning method to determine that it was in fact one complete dinosaur.
Halskaraptor was somewhere between the size of a chicken and a turkey. It had an unusual array of features never seen before in one dinosaur. Halszkaraptor had a heron-like neck, flipper-type forelimbs much like a penguin, and webbed feet similar to those of a duck. Dr. Philip Currie, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Palaeobiology at the University of Alberta, determined that these features means it spent some time living in or very near water much like a shore-bird, which is very rare for a dinosaur. The long neck and more than 100 teeth indicate that it was able to snag small fish and insects in the water.
Finding this specimen in Mongolia is significant for a couple of reasons. For one, present-day Mongolia, much like Alberta, has provided a wealth of dinosaur discoveries for many years, so finding a completely new species was a big surprise.
It's also an indication of even more dinosaur diversity than is previously known. Paleontologists believe finding yet another new species suggests that there are still many more to be found, not just in known sites like Mongolia and Alberta, but other places around the world. It has also been suggested that in the future new-found species of dinosaur are more likely to be the size of Halszkaraptor, simply because they may have been overlooked in the past in favour of the iconic large dinosaurs.