So there were ducks during the Jurassic period! Palaeontologists upon analyzing an unusual fossil realized that it belongs to a new category of dinosaurs. They have revealed that it might be the remnants of a strange feathered dinosaur or a mutant swan.
Scientists claim the fossil to be related to the velociraptor, a species of dinosaur that had a neck like a swan, flippers, a snout similar to a goose and the beak was lined with teeth. The team further claims that the creature might have lived both on water and land. The paper was published in Nature.
These features would make the species known as Halszkaraptor escuilliei which lived 75 million years ago. It was comparable in size to a modern swan and was semi-aquatic. It would make the creature the second swimming dinosaur after spinosaurus, said scientists.
H. escuilliei happens to be 75 million years old and comes from Mongolia. The remains were sold in private markets of Japan and Britain after they were first discovered before coming to the notice of the researchers. The unique features created a hype in the team over its authenticity.
The team of researchers, led by Andrea Cau, a paleontologist from the Geological and Palaeontological Museum Giovanni Capellini in Italy, cracked open the bones using X-rays and a synchrotron to further analyze the origin of the bones. The results revealed that the fossils have not been tampered and do belong to the prehistoric swans.
Hunting for food was easy for H. escuilliei as its snout was filled with sensory nerves similar to crocodiles and could detect movement and temperature changes in water. The forelimbs were similar to flippers as found in marine reptiles.
Pascal Godefroit, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels and an author of the paper stated that the creature was designed to swim but there lies a confusion in the nature of swimming. He further stated that since the dinosaur didn't have webbed feet it is unlikely that it swam like a swan. It might have used its forelimbs which had the shape of flippers to move like penguins or its long legs to swim through the water like a heron or crane.
Godefroit further stated that its legs and clawed feet were built to run on land and not swim in water. When compared to marine predators like ichthyosaurus and mesosaurs in the Jurassic age, H.escuilliei were marine reptiles like sea-turtles. It was not bigger than a turkey to be precise.
Results from the synchrotron convinced Thomas Richard Holtz, a paleontologist from the University of Maryland that the fossils were not fake. "We're used to thinking of raptors in the form of velociraptors, looking like knife-footed murder birds. Now we know it also produced the non-bird dinosaur equivalent to a goose," Holtz told The New York Times.