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Say hello to ancient 'chicken from hell' dinosaur

Posted on Mar 20 2014 | IANS

Washington, March 20 : A bird-like dinosaur nicknamed 'chicken from hell' that roamed the earth with deadly T. Rex 66 million years ago has been unearthed.

Scientists from Carnegie and Smithsonian museums and the University of Utah have named the sharp-clawed, 500-pound bird-like dinosaur 'Anzu wyliei'.

Anzu means a bird-like demon in Mesopotamian mythology and wyliei is given after a boy named Wylie - the dinosaur-loving grandson of a Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh trustee.

"It was a giant raptor but with a chicken-like head and presumably feathers. The animal stood about 10 feet tall, so it would be scary as well as absurd to encounter," explained Emma Schachner, a post-doctoral fellow at University of Utah.

"We jokingly call this thing the 'chicken from hell' and I think that is pretty appropriate," added Matt Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

Three partial skeletons of the dinosaur - almost making up a full skeleton - were excavated from the uppermost level of the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota - a formation known for abundant fossils of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops.

The new dinosaur was 11½ feet long, almost 5 feet tall at the hip and weighed an estimated 440 to 660 pounds.

Anzu is the largest oviraptorosaur found in North America.

Oviraptorosaurs are a group of dinosaurs that are closely related to birds and often have strange, cassowary-like crests on their heads.

Anzu with large sharp claws was an omnivore, eating vegetation, small animals and perhaps eggs while living on a wet floodplain.

"Having a nearly complete skeleton of Anzu wyliei sheds light on a category of oviraptorosaur theropod dinosaurs named caenagnathids, which have been known for a century, but only from limited fossil evidence," Schachner said in a study published in PLOS ONE.

The full fossil is on display at the Carnegie Museum.

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