An unusual set of fossilised remains illegally poached from Mongolia

2017-12-07 11:06 GMT+8

Halszkaraptor escuilliei is thought to have lived around 71-75m years ago and had a swan-like neck, razor-sharp “killer claws” and a duck-billed snout.

An unusual set of fossilised remains illegally poached from Mongolia belonged to a new species of dinosaur with the rare trait of living on both land and water, researchers have claimed.

Thought to have lived around 71–75m years ago, the creature boasts a swan-like neck, razor-sharp “killer claws” on its feet, a duck-billed snout and forelimbs with proportions that might have helped it swim.

“What is very special about it is that it looks very weird. It doesn’t look like any other dinosaur that we know so far,” said Vincent Fernandez, a palaeontologist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and a co-author of the research. Fernandez also noted that while the claws are a feature thought to be useful on land, the other features would help with hunting fish. 

“When we add up all the [characteristics] it shows that it was an amphibious animal – it was able to run on land, as we imagine dinosaurs running around, and on top of that it was able to go into water,” Fernandez said, adding that the creature’s body was about the size of a mallard duck, but with a long tail and longer legs.

While early members of the group that includes modern birds show signs of a water-based lifestyle, the adaptations are very rare in non-avian dinosaurs. Sauropod footprints, made in lagoons, have been found in Scotland, but only giant meat-eaters known as spinosaurids have previously been heralded as showing skeletal modifications that indicate a truly amphibious lifestyle.

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