Stories tagged dinosaur-bird link

Jun
17
2007

Chinese paleontologists have pulled something rad out of the sands of the Gobi desert - a giant birdlike dinosaur.
The Gigantoraptor: Just reemphasizing how weird and cool dinosaurs are.    (Image by "ArthurWeasley")
The Gigantoraptor: Just reemphasizing how weird and cool dinosaurs are. (Image by "ArthurWeasley")

The newly discovered dinosaur belongs to the oviraptosaurs, a subgroup of the theropods (the family of Tyrannosaur rex and velociraptors, among others). The oviraptosaurs were beaked and feathered, and are very closely related to primitive birds (some scientists actually consider them to be flightless birds, and not dinosaurs, but this is debated).

The thing is, as theropds evolved to become more birdlike (like oviraptorsaurs were), they almost always became smaller as well - the largest of the oviraptosaurs were about the size of an emu. The gigantoraptor, as its name would suggest, seems to be the exception to this rule.

Probably still a juvenile - growth patterns on the bone suggest it was only about 11 years old when it died - the gigantoraptor found by the Chinese team was already 25 feet long, and would have weighed around 3000 pounds. It had clawed arms, and disproportionately long and slender legs (larger dinosaurs usually have shorter, stockier legs). Like other oviraptosaurs, it had a toothless beak, and may also have been feathered. Paleontologists are still unsure about what it ate, but it has been suggested that the gigantoraptor may have been an open pursuit predator, and a dangerous one - the size and structure of its limbs could have made it "the fastest dinosaur on two legs."

While the paleontologists who discovered the gigantoraptor are stressing that it does not place any doubt on the link between theropods and modern birds, the find is forcing some scientists to reevaluate the idea that dinosaurs only got smaller as they became more birdlike. "If you saw a mouse as big as a pig you would be very surprised – it is the same when we found the Gigantoraptor," pointed out one of the Chinese paleontologists.

The Gigantoraptor.

Wikipedia on oviraptosaurs.