Monday, October 27, 2014

Terrible hands

In 1965, paleontologists excavating a 70-million-year-old sandstone formation in the Gobi desert found the arms of a new species of dinosaur. Beause they each measured 8' (2.4 m) long and ended in 8" (20 cm) claws, they named the beast Deinocheirus mirificus (Greek for “terrible hand, which is unusual”). After 50 years, a team of paleontologists led by Yuong-Nam Lee of the Korea Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources has made discoveries that allow them to piece together this creature – and have found it to be as strange as its arms are long. Its broad and lengthy duck-like snout and cavernous lower jaw housed a huge tongue. Inside the gullet were more than 1,400 gizzard stones, which it had swallowed to grind up its food like a bird. It was the size of a tyrannosaur, but couldn't move quickly and had no teeth. The ligaments growing from the spine worked like the cables of a suspension bridge to support the animal's huge abdomen and legs. And fused bones at the end of the tail indicate that it supported feathers (RENDERINGS HERE). Paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh observes, "This alien creature was a monstrous omnivore, a garbage-disposal type of dinosaur that fed on fish, small vertebrates, plants, and probably about anything it could get its hands on.” Its terrible hands...

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