Duck-dinosaur hybrid baffles scientists with mixed-up body

Published December 06, 2017

What do you get when you cross a duck, a crocodile, a swan, a penguin and an ostrich? The newest species of dinosaur with a cartoon-like appearance.

The latest dino discovery was announced Wednesday in a study by the journal Nature. It walked like an ostrich, had flippers and could swim like a penguin, had a bill like a duck and a neck like a swan but had killer claws and teeth like a crocodile, which it needed because it was a meat-eating dinosaur.

And the whole package came in at a whopping 18-inches tall.

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It was named Halszkaraptor escuilliei, or “Halszka” for short, after the late Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska.

According to the study, the skeleton of the tiny bird-like creature was discovered in a sandstone rock and is believed to have roamed Mongolia 75 million years ago.

This photo provided by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility shows a Halszkaraptor escuilliei fossil at the ESRF facility in Grenoble, France. In a study released Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 by the journal Nature, researchers announced the discovery of the new dinosaur species, about 18 inches (45 centimeters) tall, which had a bill like a duck but teeth like a croc’s, a swan-like neck and killer claws. (Pierre Jayet/ESRF via AP)

This photo provided by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility shows a Halszkaraptor escuilliei fossil at the ESRF facility in Grenoble, France.  (Pierre Jayet/ESRF via AP)

Lead author Andrea Cau, a paleontologist from Bologna, Italy, said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil's authenticity, both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia and left in a private collector's hands.

"I asked myself, 'Is this a real, natural skeleton, or an artifact, a chimera? If this is a fake, how could I demonstrate it?'" Cau said. "Assuming it was a fake instead of starting assuming that the fossil is genuine was the most appropriate way to start the investigation of such a bizarre fossil."

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Researchers used a Synchrotron, a powerful X-ray generator, to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the creature was indeed a single animal and not a concoction built from several sources.

Paul Tafforeau, a co-author of the study and a paleontologist in Grenoble, France -- home to the European Synchrotron -- said the dinosaur’s mashup body allowed it to run and hunt on the ground and fish in fresh water.

Another author of the study, Dennis Voeten described it as “a peculiar animal” adding that the dinosaur "combines different parts we knew from other groups into this one small animal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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