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Mud Dragon: Bird-Like Dinosaur With Toothless Beak And Feathers Found In China

Fossils of a new species of bird-like dinosaur was found during excavations using explosives at a construction site near Ganzhou in Southern China.

Mud Dragon Dinosaur

The dinosaur is believed to have died after it was trapped in mud about 66 to 72 million years ago, which earned it the name Tongtianlong limosus, which means "muddy dragon on the road to heaven."

The prehistoric creature, which lived during the Cretaceous period, is characterized by wing-like arms, a dome-shaped crest on top of its head and a sharp but toothless beak that allowed it to eat plants, nuts, shellfish and eggs.

The new species is a member of a group of dinosaurs known as oviraptorosaurs, a close relative of birds, which are believed to have evolved from small and feathered dinosaurs.

Diversifying Species Of Dinosaur Before Killer Asteroid Hit Earth

The mud dragon is the sixth newly identified species of oviraptorid in Southern China. The discovery of these species hints that the group was still blossoming and diversifying during the last few million years before the asteroid that brought the dinosaurs into extinction crashed on Earth about 66 million years ago.

Researchers believe that the group is likely among the last of the dinosaurs to diversify before the killer asteroid hit the planet.

"The large number of oviraptorosaurs from Ganzhou, which often differ in cranial morphologies related to feeding, document an evolutionary radiation of these dinosaurs during the very latest Cretaceous of Asia, which helped establish one of the last diverse dinosaur faunas before the end-Cretaceous extinction," paleontologist Steve Brusatte, from the University of Edinburgh, and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports on Nov. 10.

Odd Posture

The remains of the mud dragon is remarkably intact and nearly complete despite some harm that was caused by the dynamite blast.

Researchers took notice of the odd posture of the animal when it was found. The creature was standing up with neck arched and arms spreading out to the sides, which suggest that the bird-like dinosaur was attempting to free itself when it got stuck in the mud.

Brusatte described the fossil of the winged dinosaur as one of the most beautiful and saddest he has seen.

"But we're lucky that the 'Mud Dragon' got stuck in the muck, because its skeleton is one of the best examples of a dinosaur that was flourishing during those final few million years before the asteroid came down and changed the world in an instant," Brusatte said.

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