Scientists have discovered a strange dinosaur that looked like a duck, with a neck like a swan, flippers like a penguin, and claws and teeth like a crocodile.
The weird dinosaur, which had a height of only about 18 inches, is also believed to have spent most of its days in the water.
Meet Halszka: The Duck-Dinosaur
The new dinosaur species, named the Halszkaraptor escuilliei or Halszka for short, was described in a study published on the journal Nature.
The fossil of Halszka took an interesting journey. It was smuggled out of Mongolia and made stops in Japan, Britain, and France. A private collector who purchased the fossil in 2015 then contacted paleontologist Pascal Godefroit for his opinion.
Godefroit thought that it was such a weird dinosaur.
The creature was a small predator that even had sickle-shaped claws similar to the Velociraptor. However, it had a long neck and a tapering snout like a swan, with arms and hands that looked like something halfway between limbs and flippers.
"It was so strange that we suspected that it might have been a chimera — a mix of different skeletons glued together," said University of Bologna's Andrea Cau, who joined Godefroit's team in investigating the specimen and the lead author of the study. It wouldn't have been the first time that a dinosaur fossil was faked. However, a particle accelerator scan revealed that the fossil was a real one.
Halszka lived about 75 million years ago and is believed to have spent most of its days in the water, hunting for crustaceans and smaller fish and animals, including lizards. Its Velociraptor-like claw was likely not used much for hunting, and its arms were likely used to paddle through the water. However, the researchers believed that Halszka did not dive into the water like modern penguins and instead used its long neck to grab prey that wander too close to it.
Halszka's hind legs, meanwhile, apparently allowed it to stand in an upright position, similar to how the ducks and ostriches of today stand.
Halszka may be a strange dinosaur, but it claims the title as the first amphibious dinosaur ever discovered, adapting to life on both land and water.
As scientists continue to unearth new fossils and discover new dinosaur species, the biggest mystery surrounding the ancient creatures is still their extinction.
The widely accepted theory is that an asteroid crashed into the Earth 66 million years ago. A study claims that if the Chicxulub asteroid struck the planet 30 seconds earlier, it would have crashed into the waters of the ancient oceans, dealing less damage to the Earth. A more recent study supported the theory, adding that only 13 percent of the Earth had the necessary requirements to turn the asteroid crash into the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
After the asteroid crash, it was proposed that the dinosaurs survived for just a few months more before dying out, paving the way for the rise of mammals.