The discovery of the fossils on a new dinosaur has created quite a stir. This one looks very different from the other ones we are familiar with. Back in 1960, paleontologists had discovered the fossils of two huge dinosaur arms but not the rest of the animal and couldn’t figure out what the rest of the animal might have looked like. But in Mongolia two nearly complete fossils have been found that complete the picture. And it is pretty strange. (The Nature article on the discovery can be see here.)
The international research team says the beast was very large, measuring about 11m (36ft) long and weighing six tonnes.
It had an elongated head with a duck-like beak, and a large humped sail on its back.
Its legs were short and stumpy, but its feet were very large with hooves, which would have prevented it from sinking into the boggy wetlands where it lived.
The researchers think that the beast was probably a very slow mover. The contents of its stomach suggest that it ate plants and fish.
Dr Yuong-Nam Lee said: “We did not know their function before, but the long forearms with giant claws may have been used for digging and gathering herbaceous plants in freshwater habitats.”
The fact that the researchers were able to identify the contents of its stomach after all this time and thus infer its eating habits is pretty impressive.
Dinosaurs never cease to surprise me. It seems that just when we have exhausted the types of dinosaurs that ever lived, new ones emerge. And not just a slight variation but a very different one. And if there is one, there must have been many of that same kind in order for that species to exist.
If we still keep finding new species of these huge animals, how many more are there that we have not discovered? This is an unanswerable question because we can never know if the last one we found is the only one that was remaining. At some point, “we have completed the set” would be a true statement but we can never know when we have reached it.
The mind boggles to think of the world 70 million or so years ago when these were the only large animals around, with large numbers of wildly different appearance wandering all over the place. Their extinction paved the way for other fairly large mammals like us to appear. But even if they had survived to a point when they coexisted with humans, we would likely have killed them off the way we did with other large mammals in the past and are still doing, as in the case of the white rhino.