On Wednesday, fossils found in North Dakota and South Dakota have been identified as a bird-like dinosaur, Anzu wyliei. The North American dinosaur had a head shape of a bird, a beak without teeth, an unusual cranial ridge, hands with big sharp claws, long legs for swift movement and was covered in feathers. Even though fossils of feathers were not found with the three partial skeletons, evidence points out that it is related to a dinosaur species from China. The Anzu wyliei stood about five feet high at the hip, 11 feet in length, had a weight range between 440 to 660 pounds and was unable to fly. The fossils were discovered over 100 years ago but until now scientists were perplexed about the identification of the species. The Anzu wyliei closely resembles its Asian cousin, the Oviraptor, whose fossils were discovered hovering a cluster of eggs. There are varied Asian fossils examples of bird-like dinosaurs, some as small as a turkey and others larger than the Anzu wyliei.
Researchers who partook in identifying the fossils of the chicken dinosaur have humorously nicknamed it “the chicken from hell.” Some researchers have claimed that if a person were to time travel 66 million years ago and see the Anzu wyliei, they would scream and run because of the absurd monstrous sight of the chicken dinosaur. Other researchers said the sight of Anzu wyliei would be laughable because it would not fit into most people’s frame of reference of what a dinosaur should look like. Scientist believe that birds are the progeny of small feather dinosaurs such as the Anzu wyliei. The earliest bird recognized by science is 150 million years old and has similar traits to bird-like dinosaurs such as the beak, hollow leg bones and air spaces in its backbone.
The Anzu wyliei lived at the end of the dinosaur age, right before the meteorite extinguished most prehistoric animals; however, some birds were saved from the catastrophic destruction. It inhabited an area that had a climate much similar to Louisiana’s bayou: warm, humid, low-lying environment marked by rivers and swamps with copious vegetation. It lived among plant-eating dinosaurs such as the tusked triceratops, shell-bodied ankylosaurus, arch-headed pachycephalosaurus and duck-billed edmontosaurus. Also an inhabitant of the area was the omnivorous and ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex. The Anzu wyliei was also an omnivore who had a diet of leaves, fruit and flowers and random meals of smaller mammals who crossed their path.
The fossils of the chicken dinosaur, Anzu wyliei that were recently identified in the PLOS journal, were excavated in the uppermost level of Hell Creek rock formation. This area which consists of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana is highly known for dinosaur fossil discoveries. Its scientific name is derived from Anzu, which is a Mesopotamian mythological demon-like bird creature and wyliei is from Wylie, grandson of a Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh trustee, who was fascinated by dinosaurs. By evidence of its fossils, the chicken dinosaur was involved in some tussles or it was very clumsy. One specimen has a broken and healed rib and the other specimen has some type of toe trauma. A full cast of the Anzu wyliei is on display at the Carnegie Museum.
By Isriya Kendrick