A student bought dinosaur remains online that turned out to be of a new species
As it turns out, you don't always need to conduct exhausting and time-consuming excavations to accidentally discover a new species of extinct dinosaur. At least you have to be pretty lucky. That's exactly what happened to Kyle Atkins-Weltman of Oklahoma State University, who purchased a fossil online that made his heart race.
The scientist and his team reported on the accidental but extremely important finding in a study published in the journal PLOS One. It challenges existing theories that the diversity of dinosaurs was gradually decreasing on the eve of extinction.
In 2014, scientists discovered the dinosaur species Anzu wyliei for the first time. It was a clawed bird-like animal over 3.3 meters tall that weighed 340 kilograms. Because of its appearance, scientists quite seriously called it a "Chicken from Hell". And if you look at the sketches of its natural appearance, you can guess why.
Anzu was believed to be the only representative of the infernal cynognathus species, but now it seems that scientists have realized they were wrong. A team of researchers led by Atkins-Weltman claims to have discovered another species.
Like Anzu, the new dinosaur also has a rather frightening name. "Pharaoh's Chicken from Hell" or Eoneophron infernalis. Part of the name is explained by the kinship with the Anzu, and the other part honors the researcher's late favorite, Pharaoh, the Nile varan.
Scientists assume that this new species was slightly smaller than its relative and weighed about the same as an adult.
The researcher admitted that he bought the remains on the Internet, where they were sold as Anzu's remains, and did not even suspect what he was getting into his hands.
"I felt my heart beat fast. I wondered if it was really happening to me at this early stage of my career" Atkins-Weltman told Live Science about the first results of the study that revealed the truth.
He said that an initial examination of the bones revealed that they were "significantly smaller" than those of Anzu. However, the first thought of the researchers was that they had simply obtained a young specimen. Even such a discovery would have been very interesting in itself as no such Anzu fossils had been found before.
Further investigation revealed that the bones were fully formed. Thus, it was not a young representative of Anzu but a completely new species.
The researchers believe that there were more representatives of the cynognathus n North America than previously thought. There is a suspicion that there was also a third relative of the "Chicken from Hell" that was the size of a dog. Scientists have already managed to find a part of the foot bone of this species. However, this assumption is preliminary.
The authors of the study note that such a diversity of species challenges the idea that the cynognathus and other dinosaurs were already in the process of extinction before the asteroid hit.
"While there are still many questions in this extinction debate, Eoneophron adds to the evidence that the cynognathus were doing quite well before the asteroid destroyed everything," Atkins-Weltman said.