Newly discovered dinosaur sported fancy headgear
Raptor resembled Australian bird
From enormous feet to scrawny neck and wicked claws, a newly discovered species of dinosaur resembles an ostrich gone bad. But no ostrich ever had this dinosaur’s fancy headgear: a towering “helmet” of bone and tissue probably functioning like some kind of beckoning billboard.
Many dinosaur species had long, slender necks and stomped about on two legs, as did this one, officially known as Corythoraptor
jacobsi. And many dinosaurs sported bizarre bony skullcaps. But Corythoraptor’s tall, narrow crest, tipped rakishly forward above the eyes, makes it a dead ringer for the cassowary, a modern-day bird native to Australia and New Guinea. Scientists describe the ancient reptile in the current issue of Scientific Reports.
No other dinosaur so strongly resembles a particular living bird, says study co-author Junchang Lü of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.
“The general outline is a very strong match,” agrees David Hone of Britain’s Queen Mary University of London, who was not associated with the discovery.
Corythoraptor was discovered by a farmer five years ago near a railway station in southern China. This dinosaur would not have needed to hop a train. Much of its 51⁄2-foot height was leg, and the proportions of its leg bones show that it was swift on its feet. Corythoraptor’s short feathered arms weren’t built for flight. But its hands, each armed with three sharp claws, would have been useful for grabbing its food, probably lizards and smaller dinosaurs, Lü says.
Corythoraptor lived roughly 65 to 100 million years ago, during the final reign of the dinosaurs The specimen in the new study died before it had finished growing. Even so, it had a headdress for sending sexual signals, hinting that the animals reproduced before they reached full size, the study says.
Corythoraptor belongs to a family of other dinosaurs with large crests, but it’s “exciting because it seems to possess the most cassowary-like crest ... yet reported” in its group, says Darren Naish of Britain’s University of Southampton, who was not involved with the study.
Corythoraptors looked a lot like modern birds known as cassowaries in the forests of New Guinea and Australia.