Did the forces of nature put a "curse" on a group of scientists who excavated the fossils of an unusual dinosaur?
It's turned into an inside joke between the team now, but experts from the Field Museum of Natural History were beset with misfortunes as soon as they discovered the remains of a dinosaur with strangely short stubby arms. Here's what happened.
The Story Behind The "Cursed" Dinosaur
In 2007, Field Museum scientists Akiko Shinya, Peter Makovicky and colleagues were out on an excavation mission at the fossil-rich geological formation known as Huincul Formation in Argentina.
The research team scoured the dig site multiple times, but as they were nearing the end of the mission, they almost found nothing.
"Pete joked, 'It's the last day, you'd better find something good!'" recalls Shinya.
Minutes later, she finally discovered something. "I could tell right away that it was good," says Shinya.
It turns out Shinya had unearthed the fossil of a newly identified meat-eating dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period. When it was alive, the dinosaur would have stood upright on two slender legs, weighed as much as a large Clydesdale horse and towered over a 6-foot-tall (182 centimeters) human.
But the team's expedition did not go smoothly as one would hope. During their trip, the truck they were riding on rolled, causing an accident. No one was seriously hurt, but the researchers did get some minor cuts and bruises.
Additionally, the team faced "bureaucratic interference," according to USA Today. Makovicky says it took an election and a new regime for them to be reunited with the dinosaur once again.
Sebastián Apesteguía, co-author of the study and a paleontologist from the Azara Foundation, says if bad luck befalls anyone in Patagonia, where the fossil was unearthed, some people believe that someone "made a gualicho on you." A "gualicho" is a spirit revered by the Tehuelche people in Patagonia.
Apesteguía says of all the dinosaurs he has worked on, this new one is the most difficult.
Because of this, scientists have decided to name the dinosaur Gualicho shinyae — Gualicho because of the "curse," and shinyae because of Akiko Shinya.
Similarities With The Tyrannosaurus Rex
Scientists say that what's really fascinating about Gualicho shinyae is its "absurdly small" forelimbs, which is quite similar to the arms of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Like the T. rex, Gualicho is a theropod — a two-legged bird-like dinosaur — but one difference is that the two dinosaurs were not related. The Gualicho possesses features typically seen in theropods, but it does fit neatly in any category, scientists say.
Researchers believe that by learning how forelimbs such as that of the Gualicho and the T. rex developed, they would understand why they evolved.
Details of the report are published in the journal PLOS ONE.