Feathered giant dinosaur

Chinese paleontologists have unearthed a dinosaur skeleton in Inner Mongolia that gives the species a striking resemblance to birds – with a body length of eight meters

What kind of nests must these be, where the rude oviraptors walk around without pushing each other: The group of oviraptorosaurs has been said by science to have been egg thieves during their lifetime (cf. The egg thief with the rabbit teeth). Yet the representatives of this group have laid eggs themselves – one of the characteristics they share with modern birds, presumably down to the nature of serial egg production.

feathered giant dinosaur

Artistic reconstruction of the giant dinosaur, together with much smaller feathered bird-like creatures

Another feature that has come in handy with birds is feathering. The prehistoric oviraptors must have run bipedally like giant hens through the then still fertile region, which today is called the Desert Gobi. There, more precisely: in the Iren-Dabasu formation in the Erlian basin near the city of Eren Hot a Chinese team of scientists around the well-known palaontologist Xing Xu now found a giant dinosaur, which reminds one of the Chocobos so popular in the Final Fantasy game series. Gigantoraptor erlianensis, according to the reconstruction of its skeleton, was probably about eight meters long, three and a half meters high and weighed 1.4 tons.

This is especially surprising, because the other members of this dinosaur group reached a much lower body weight. The oviraptorosaurs are a step towards the birds, but they themselves were not able to fly. That Xu’s group nevertheless attributes the species to the Oviraptors is due to the rough set of similarities the researchers explore in a paper in the science journal Nature. Responsible for the enormous body size of the gigantoraptor was probably its unusual coarse growth rate, which was significantly above that of North American tyrannosaur species.

Giant feathered dinosaur

A technician holds the bird-like end of the femur of the giant dinosaur excavated in the Gobi Desert

The researchers even suspect that the skeleton was that of a still quite young adult of about eleven years – completely grown the Ur-Chocobo could have been still a piece more roughly. Whether the dinosaur actually wore feather ornaments, however, can no longer be proven today. But palaeontologist Xu suspects this because close relatives Caudipteryx and Protarchaeopteryx have also been shown to have been feathered. According to this statement, Gigantoraptor erlianensis wore feathers at least on its arms and tail, and possibly also on its body.

The dinosaur thus became the Stirton thunderbird, which lived a few million years ago in Australia and reached about 500 kilograms in weight, as the heaviest feathered animal of all time relieved. It is clear that the competitors at least did not have to fear his teeth: he did not even have them. What the animal fed on therefore remains unclear – especially since it bore characteristics of both herbivores (narrow head, long neck) and carnivores (sharp claws).

Reconstruction of the dinosaur skeleton found in Inner Mongolia. The gray shaded areas are preserved. The sketched human being is 1.75 meters tall.

The fact that the dinosaur skeleton was completely brought back into the sunlight at all is, by the way, thanks to the media – at least that’s what an anecdote that Xing Xu added to the official press release tells us. Demnach habe der japanische Fernsehsender NHK vor zwei Jahren Xu und sein Team im Erlian-Becken interviewt – wo die Kameraleute zufallig einen groben, bereits an der Oberflache liegenden Knochen als Beleg fur die Fossilreichheit dieses Gebiets filmten. At first, researchers had attributed the bone to a tyrannosaur – if only because of its coarseness. However, the discovery of other, matching bones in the immediate vicinity showed that they had to be huge oviraptorosaur remains.

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