Palaeontology: Bizarre, parrot-like toothless two-fingered dinosaur unearthed in the Gobi Desert 


Bizarre new species of toothless two-fingered dinosaur that looked like a giant parrot and lived 68 million years ago is unearthed in the Gobi Desert

  • Researchers from Edinburgh have named the new species Oksoko avarsan
  • It would have grown to around 6.5 feet in length and sported feathers and a beak
  • Most members of its genus — the oviraptors — had three fingers on forelimbs
  • The first sign of digit loss in the group, it shows O. avarsan underwent adaptation

A bizarre-looking toothless dinosaur that had only two fingers and would have resembled a giant parrot has been unearthed in Mongolia.

Researchers from Edinburgh found multiple, complete skeletons of the new omnivorous species — dubbed Oksoko avarsan — in the Gobi Desert.

O. avarsan — which lived some 68 million years ago — would have grown to around 6.5 feet (two meters) in length and sported both feathers and a toothless beak.

The team said that the remarkably well-preserved fossils provided the first evidence of digit loss in the typically three-fingered family of dinosaurs known as oviraptors.

The fact that a member of the genus could evolve forelimb adaptations suggests that the group could alter their diets and lifestyles — allowing them to flourish.

A bizarre-looking toothless dinosaur that had only two fingers and would have resembled a giant parrot has been unearthed in Mongolia. Pictured, an artist's impression of O. avarsan

A bizarre-looking toothless dinosaur that had only two fingers and would have resembled a giant parrot has been unearthed in Mongolia. Pictured, an artist’s impression of O. avarsan

‘Oksoko avarsan is interesting because the skeletons are very complete,’ said paper author and palaeontologist Gregory Funston of the University of Edinburgh.

‘The way they were preserved resting together shows that juveniles roamed together in groups,’ he added.

‘But more importantly, its two-fingered hand prompted us to look at the way the hand and forelimb changed throughout the evolution of oviraptors — which hadn’t been studied before.’

‘This revealed some unexpected trends that are a key piece in the puzzle of why oviraptors were so diverse before the extinction that killed the dinosaurs,’ he added.

In their study, Dr Funston and colleagues studied the reduction in size — and eventual loss — of the oviraptor’s third finger across their evolutionary history.

They found that the creatures’ forelimbs changed drastically, and in tandem with migrations into new geographic areas — specifically to those now known as North America and the Gobi Desert.

The team said that the remarkably well-preserved fossils provided the first evidence of digit loss in the typically three-fingered family of dinosaurs known as oviraptors

The team said that the remarkably well-preserved fossils provided the first evidence of digit loss in the typically three-fingered family of dinosaurs known as oviraptors

In their excavation work, the researchers unearthed the fossilised remains of four juvenile Oksoko avarsan that appear to have been resting together.

It is quite common for animals to be social when young.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Researchers from Edinburgh found multiple, complete skeletons of the new omnivorous species — dubbed Oksoko avarsan — in the Gobi Desert

Researchers from Edinburgh found multiple, complete skeletons of the new omnivorous species — dubbed Oksoko avarsan — in the Gobi Desert

HOW THE DINOSAURS WENT EXTINCT AROUND 66 MILLION YEARS AGO

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated Earth around 66 million years ago, before they suddenly went extinct. 

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The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.

It was believed for many years that the changing climate destroyed the food chain of the huge reptiles. 

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

This is an element that is rare on Earth but is found  in vast quantities in space.  

When this was dated, it coincided precisely with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record. 

A decade later, scientists uncovered the massive Chicxulub Crater at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates to the period in question. 

Scientific consensus now says that these two factors are linked and they were both probably caused by an enormous asteroid crashing to Earth.

With the projected size and impact velocity, the collision would have caused an enormous shock-wave and likely triggered seismic activity. 

The fallout would have created plumes of ash that likely covered all of the planet and made it impossible for dinosaurs to survive. 

Other animals and plant species had a shorter time-span between generations which allowed them to survive.

There are several other theories as to what caused the demise of the famous animals. 

One early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs and another proposes that toxic angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them off.  



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