Giant Bird-Dinosaur Discovered!
... No, it wasn't found alive, which may be a good thing: T-Rexes were intimidating enough before they could fly! In rural China, paleontologists (dino-archaeologists) have discovered a massive and probably predatory winged dinosaur. The sheer size of this find may force a re-examination of the evolutionary steps between a certain class of dinosaurs and modern birds.
Paleontologists have unearthed a T-Rex-sized "bird dinosaur", dubbed Gigantoraptor erlianensis. The beast, which lived 65 million years ago, stood five metres tall, was eight metres long, and would have weighed in at around 1.5 tonnes.
The fossils were dug out of the Gobi desert's Erlian basin by Xing Xu, a paleontologist with Beijing's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, and his colleagues.
The researchers initially thought it belonged to the same family as Tyrannosaurus Rex, but then they found its beak and realised they had something different on their hands. Pieces of bone also helped classify the beast as a member of the oviraptosauria group.
This means it belongs to the family of dinosaurs from which birds have evolved, but its massive size complicates the story of the modern sparrow's lineage.
Mark Norell, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, said: "Progressively from within advanced theropods you get smaller and smaller towards birds...[but] after some species originate and spring off the bird line, you get secondary gigantism."
Xu told Scientific American: "It is the largest known beaked dinosaur. Big size has some advantages such as having fewer predators and more food resources that are unavailable for small animals."
Norell professed himself "flabbergasted" by its immense size.
Hey, it's a newly-discovered-dinosaur story. It deserves an exclamation point in the headline.
Disclosure: I like dinosaurs. Hey, who doesn't? Tony Soprano likes dinosaurs, too, though perhaps I could have found a more positive role model to use as an example...