Newly dis­cov­ered di­nosaur sported fancy head­gear

Rap­tor re­sem­bled Aus­tralian bird

The Signal - - USA TODAY - Traci Wat­son

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.

ZHAO CHUANG

Co­ry­tho­rap­tors looked a lot like mod­ern birds known as cas­sowaries in the forests of New Guinea and Aus­tralia.

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