A new bird-like dinosaur was just discovered in south China. The specimen was uncovered in the Ganzhou area, during construction work at a school, and it narrowly missed being destroyed by a dynamite explosion.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and China carried out a study to identify it.
It belongs to a group called the oviraptorosaurs — funny-looking feathered dinosaurs with sharp beaks which were ancestors of birds.
The team named the species Tongtianlong limosus, which roughly translates as “muddy dragon on the road to heaven,” or so it’s been nicknamed, “mud dragon.”
The findings were published in the journal Nature, which describes what the strange creature probably would have looked like. It had feathers and a beak-like a bird, but it was flightless. It was also the size of a donkey.
The researchers speculate that during the time Tongtianlong limosus was walking the earth, dinosaurs were experiencing a population boost and diversifying into new species. This group was probably one of the largest groups of dinosaurs to do so before the assumed asteroid impact 66 million years ago, which killed all non-bird dinosaurs.
“This new dinosaur is one of the most beautiful, but saddest, fossils I’ve ever seen,” Dr Steve Brusatte, a professor of geoscience and one of the researchers at the University of Edinburgh that studied the fossil, said in a statement. “But we’re lucky that the ‘Mud Dragon’ got stuck in the muck, because its skeleton is one of the best examples of a dinosaur that was flourishing during those final few million years before the asteroid came down and changed the world in an instant.”
The Tongtianlong limosus was found almost completely intact, lying on its front with its wings and neck outstretched. The scientists think that the creature died in this pose after being buried in mud about 66-72 million years ago.
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