Say hello to Anzu wyliei, a newly discovered Cretaceous era dinosaur that roamed the Dakotas 66 million years ago. Measuring nearly 12 feet long and weighing over 600 pounds, it's the largest oviraptorosaur ever discovered in North America.
"We jokingly call this thing the 'chicken from hell,' and I think that's pretty appropriate," noted paleontologist Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh in a statement. His team's analysis of three partial skeletons, which were uncovered from the uppermost level of the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota, now appears in PLoS One.
More formally, the feathered dinosaur is named after Anzu, a bird-like demon from Mesopotamian mythology, and wyliei after a boy named Wylie, the dinosaur-loving grandson of a Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh trustee.
Between the three partial skeletons, the paleontologists were practically able to reconstruct the whole thing. Living amongst Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, the newly discovered dinosaur measured 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) long and almost five feet (1.5 meters) tall at the hip. It weighed an estimated 440 to 660 pounds (200 to 300 kg). Living during the Late Cretaceous, it was wiped out by an asteroid (or some other mass-extinction-inducing event) 65 million years ago along with its contemporaries.
As noted, it's the largest oviraptorosaur ever discovered in North America — a group of dinosaurs closely related to birds who often exhibited cassowary-like crests on their heads (a cassowary being a flightless bird found in New Guinea and Australia). They were probably omnivores, foraging on vegetation, small animals, and perhaps eggs while living on wet floodplains.
And if the fossilized remains are of any indication, these things got into their fair share of scraps and mishaps. One dinosaur had a broken and healed rib, while another showed signs trauma to a toe.
Images: Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
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