This weird, water-loving dinosaur has claws like a velociraptor and a neck like …

If it walks like a duck and swims like a duck, it is perhaps a dinosaur. Scientists have found a flippered theropod dinosaur that seems to have spent a lot of its life in water.

The fossil of Halszkaraptor escuilliei, described within the journal Nature, reveals a wierd dinosaur that defies paleontologists’ expectations: one which mixes the traits of theropod dinosaurs with these of aquatic or semi-aquatic birds and reptiles as we speak.

“The primary time I noticed the fossil I used to be shocked,” stated lead writer Andrea Cau, a paleontologist on the Geological and Palaeontological Museum Giovanni Capellini in Italy. “It was so sudden and weird.”

H. escuilliei lived some seventy five million years in the past, through the Cretaceous Interval. It was a theropod, a largely carnivorous group of dinosaurs whose members included Tyrannosaurus rex and the ancestors of all dwelling birds.

H. escuilliei, referred to as Halszka for brief, was a part of the dromaeosauridae, a gaggle of feathered theropods that included velociraptor and that weren’t birds or hen ancestors, however intently associated to them. Whereas no feathers survived on this specimen, Halszka in all probability sported plumage and it had a considerably birdlike invoice that was nonetheless not a real beak (partially as a result of it housed a number of tooth).

Halszka had an extended, swanlike neck, was the dimensions of a goose, and it in all probability spent a lot of its time in lakes and rivers consuming small fish, crustaceans and small animals comparable to lizards, Cau stated. On this dino-eat-dino world, its predators might have included fellow theropods like velociraptor.

This fossil, which continues to be partly embedded in rock, was initially poached from Mongolia, passing by way of a number of personal collections earlier than a French fossil vendor acquired it in 2015 and donated it to the Royal Belgian Institute of Pure Sciences. It shortly struck researchers as an oddball.

“We’re used to considering of dromaeosaurs within the context of the basic raptors — velociraptor and Deinonychus and Utahraptor, as a result of we now know they’re completely feathered and so forth — as kind of knife-footed homicide-birds,” stated Thomas Holtz Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist on the College of Maryland in School Park who was not concerned with the research.

However this new fossil, he stated, is one “bizarre … wanting dromaeosaur.”

This dinosaur did have a curved sickle-like claw on the second toe of the foot that’s typical of dinosaurs like velociraptor, nevertheless it was not particularly lengthy and doubtless wasn’t used that…

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