WASHINGTON – With a bill like a duck but teeth like a croc's, a swanlike neck and killer claws, a new dinosaur species uncovered by scientists looks like something Dr. Seuss could have dreamed up.
It also had flippers like a penguin, and while it walked like an ostrich it could also swim. That's the first time swimming ability has been shown for a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur.
The tiny creature, only about 18 inches tall, roamed 75 million years ago in what is now Mongolia. Its full curled-up skeleton was found in a sandstone rock.
“It's such a peculiar animal,” said Dennis Voeten, a paleontology researcher at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. “It combines different parts we knew from other groups into this one small animal.”
In a study that was released Wednesday by the journal Nature, Voeten and co-authors named it Halszkaraptor escuilliei or “Halszka” after the late Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska.
Its mashup body let it run and hunt on the ground and fish in fresh water, said study co-author Paul Tafforeau.
Lead author Andrea Cau, a paleontologist at the Geological Museum Capellini in Bologna, Italy, said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil's authenticity, both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia and left in a private collector's hands.
So researchers used the Synchrotron to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the creature was indeed a single animal and not a concoction built up from several sources.