Last updated January 11, 2018 at 10:39 am
A bizarre new species of dinosaur has been discovered in Mongolia, that had penguin-like flippers as forelimbs, the neck of a swan, the bill of a duck, except lined with teeth like a crocodile’s.
The animal, which is believed to have lived around 71-75 million years ago, is thought to have spent part of its life in the water and used its razor sharp claws to hunt down prey.
The species, Halszkaraptor escuilliei, is described in a paper published in Nature. It was about the size of large duck, but with a long tail and longer legs.
The dinosaur is a member of the maniraptora group of dinosaurs that includes birds and their closest relatives. During the Cretaceous, several maniraptoran lineages evolved different characteristics related to the ecosystems they inhabited.
Authors of the paper, Andrea Cau and colleagues, used a high-resolution synchrotron radiation scanning method to examine a fossil still partially embedded in rock
The unusual features are shared with reptilian and avian groups that live at least part of the time in the water.
The authors believe the fossil is evidence of species of amphibious theropod that walked on two legs on land, but used its flipper-like forelimbs to manoeuvre in water in the manner of a penguin.
They note that the creature’s formidable claws would be useful on land, but the other features, such as its flippers and teeth-line bill, would help with hunting fish.
“What is very special about it is that it looks very weird,” Vincent Fernandez, a co-author of the research, told the Guardian newspaper.
“It doesn’t look like any other dinosaur that we know so far.
“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.