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Palaeontology: A splayed dinosaur

Scientific Reports

November 11, 2016

A new species of oviraptorosaur (a bird-like, feathered dinosaur) is described in Scientific Reports this week. The fossilized remains of the new species - Tongtianlong limosus - were preserved with limbs splayed to the side, neck outstretched and the head raised.

Junchang Lu and colleagues report the discovery of the new species of oviraptorosaur from the Nanxiong Formation of the Ganzhou area of Jiangxi Province, southern China. The specimen was collected by a farmer and construction workers and as such, was not mapped in its original location while being excavated, making it difficult to interpret what may have caused this strange position. The authors note that Tongtianlong is different to other species of oviraptorosaur owing to the unique shape of its dome-like skull roof and a highly convex premaxilla (a cranial bone at the tip of the upper jaw).

The Ganzhou area has emerged as a hotspot for dinosaur discoveries over the past five years, with six groups of oviraptorosaurs identified in deposits from this region, dating from the late Cretaceous period (approximately 72 million years ago). The authors propose that the number of different Ganzhou oviraptorosaurs discovered document an evolutionary radiation during the last stages of the Cretaceous in Asia, in one of the final flurries of evolution before the extinction of the dinosaurs.

doi: 10.1038/srep35780

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