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Meet the "Chicken from Hell," a recently identified bird-like dinosaur that roamed the Dakotas with T. rex 66 million years ago.
The beaked dinosaur, Anzu wyliei, is described in the latest issue of the journal PLoS ONE. The dino was tall, measured 11.5 feet long, weighed 500 pounds and had very sharp claws.
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"It was a giant raptor, but with a chicken-like head and presumably feathers," co-author Emma Schachner of the University of Utah, said in a press release. "The animal stood about 10 feet tall, so it would be scary as well as absurd to encounter."
Lead author Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History added, "We jokingly call this thing the 'chicken from hell,' and I think that's pretty appropriate."
The dinosaur's remains were excavated from the uppermost level of the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota. The dino really did come from Hell (so to speak)!
Its scientific name refers to Anzu, a bird-like demon in Mesopotamian mythology, and wyliei, after a boy named Wylie, who is the dinosaur-loving grandson of a Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh trustee.
The dino is one of the earliest oviraptorosaurs, so it lived close to the dinosaur extinction event, when an asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago, Schachner said.
She and her colleagues believe the clawed dino was an omnivore that ate vegetation, small animals and perhaps eggs while living on a wet floodplain.
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The dinosaur apparently got into some scrapes (or was clumsy?), given intriguing clues revealed in its fossils.
"Two of the specimens display evidence of pathology," Schachner explained. "One appears to have a broken and healed rib, and the other has evidence of some sort of trauma to a toe."
"I am really excited about this discovery because Anzu is the largest oviraptorosaur found in North America," she continued. "Oviraptorosaurs are a group of dinosaurs that are closely related to birds and often have strange, cassowary-like crests on their heads."
The cassowary is a flightless bird in New Guinea and Australia related to emus and ostriches.
This dinosaur then looks like a mixed-up collage of chicken, cassowary and non-avian dinosaur - all rolled into one species. Its full cast is on display now at the Carnegie Museum.
Photo: Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History