Scientists have discovered yet another new species of dinosaur, a creature known colloquially as the "chicken from Hell," because it's "scary as well as absurd," according to researcher Emma Schachner.
Schachner, who co-authored the report revealing the new species, describes the new dino as "a giant raptor, but with a chicken-like head and presumably feathers. The animal stood about 10 feet tall."
In the paper published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE today, Schachner and her co-authors describe the features of Anzu wyliei, a member of the feathered oviraptorosaurs group. Discover Magazine fills in some details on what the creature may have actually looked like:
Despite its vicious-looking claws, A. wyliei likely ate vegetation, small animals and possibly the eggs of other species. It lived on a floodplain and, while flightless, had a bird-like appearance with slender legs and a toothless jaw. Although no fossilized evidence of feathers were found, based on its relationship with other feathered species, researchers believe the animal had feathers on its tail and arms. Researchers estimate Anzu wyliei weighed perhaps 450-650 pounds, making it among the largest known oviraptorosaurs.
The dinosaur's fossils were discovered in North and South Dakota nearly a decade ago, and are dated back to the end of the Cretaceous period -- soon before the dinosaurs were killed en masse. Scientists discovered three partial skeletons, which together make up almost one full skeleton. Schachner says that "two of the specimens display evidence of pathology. One appears to have broken and healed a rib, and the other has evidence of some sort of trauma to a toe." Poor hell chickens.
For almost a hundred years, the presence of oviraptorosaurs in North America was only known from a few bits of skeleton, and the details of their appearance and biology remained a mystery. With the discovery of A. wyliei, we finally have the fossil evidence to show what this species looked like and how it is related to other dinosaurs.
Two of the partial skeletons are at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (and the third is being held at the Marmarth Research Foundation in South Dakota) for those of you in need of a hellish, chickenish, dinosaur fix.