The latest Paleontologists studying a strange fossil have classified a new dinosaur, linked to the velociraptor, which had a neck like a bird, a nose like a goose and forelimbs like flippers. The creature’s combination of features are so strange that the extra work was required to verify the fossil’s authenticity, research suggests that it might have lived on both land and in water, they described in a paper published on Wednesday in Nature. If so, that would make the species, known as Halszkaraptor escuilliei, only the second swimming dinosaur ever discovered, after the fierce Spinosaurus.
The evidence that suggests H.escuilliei was semiaquatic include its long neck and curved, crocodile-like teeth, which it may have used to fall face first at fish from the water surface. The dinosaur also had a nose filled with sensitive nerves that are typically seen in crocodiles and used to identify movement and temperature changes in water. Its forelimbs were formed less like wings and more like flippers, comparable to those utilized by marine reptiles like the plesiosaur to swim. Pascal Godefroit, a palaeontologist and an author on the paper, said that it was intended for swimming, but which kind of swimming we are not aware of.
Perhaps it used its flipper-like forelimbs to manoeuvre like a penguin. Or its long legs to wade through the water like a crane or heron. Dr Godefroit said the dinosaur needed webbed feet, so it is unlikely that it swam like a swan, gracefully floating on the water’s surface while feverishly driving below. Instead, its legs and clawed feet were better suited for moving on land. But if the dinosaur used its paws to move into the water, it would not have been as powerful a swimmer as a swan or duck. It also was probably not a diver like some waterfowl.
Though the ancient oceans were teeming with fierce marine predators like the ichthyosaurs and mesosaurs, those leviathans were not dinosaurs, but instead marine reptiles like sea turtles. The recently identified H. escuilliei was a turkey-sized raptor. This conclusion helps reveal that the raptor group included not only physical killing machines like deinonychus and maybe flying members like Microraptor, but also swimmers. The lately recognized dinosaur’s past is as shrouded in mystery as its swimming capabilities. The study team merely knows that it is about 75 million years old but not when it was noticed. That is because after it was discovered, it was sold on the black market. For years, perhaps decades, it was held in private collections in Japan and Britain before ending up in the hands of researchers.
This checkered past, combined with its unusual characteristics like duckbill, swan neck as long as its body, sickle-shaped toe claw left some palaeontologists dubious about its authenticity. The team, which was led by Andrea Cau, a palaeontologist from the Geological and Palaeontological Museum Giovanni Capellini in Italy, had to make certain it wasn’t just a bunch of bones and plaster glued collectively. So they made it to a synchrotron to explode with X-rays and peek within.
Dr Fernandez palaeontologist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and an author on the paper said that I thought it would be undeniable. But I saw at it for hours, and I couldn’t find anything. It was real. The synchrotron also revealed a series of sharp teeth hidden in its mouth.
Thomas Richard Holtz, a palaeontologist from the University of Maryland who was not included in the research, said that at first, he thought the fossil was a fraud. The results from the synchrotron convinced him that wasn’t the case. He stated that the dinosaur’s features support the idea that it swam, and recommend that it most likely paddled in the water until it got too deep and then it used its forelimbs to push itself ahead. But he continued that further investigation was needed to reveal this strange dinoduck’s swim stroke of choice.