Eoneophron infernalis (top left), Anzu wyliei (right), and another caenagnathid dinosaur (bottom left) in the Hell Creek Formation. (Artistic illustration)
Paleontologist Kyle Atkins-Weltman of Oklahoma State University (OSU) was studying a small collection of bone fossils from what he believed to be an Anzu wyliei > juvenile.
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The expert researcher in vertebrate anatomy was not seeking to identify a new species. Rather, he was trying to understand how Anzu's metatarsals, or toe bones, supported its weight.
Fossils suggested the beast was about 25% smaller than other Anzu remains. So we thought it was a juvenile Anzu. And we thought so until evidence showed that wasn't the case.
A quote from Kyle Atkins-Weltman, Oklahoma State University
When it became clear to him that fossils do not x27;may not have belonged to Anzu, the paleontologist turned to experts in caenagnathids, Greg Funston, of the Royal Ontario Museum, and Jade Simons, of the University of Toronto, for their assistance and expertise.
The researcher also called on Holly Woodward Ballard, professor of anatomy at OSU, whose research is based on paleohistology, the study of fossil bone microstructures.
Thanks to recent techniques, they were able to determine that the bones of the foot and leg were not structurally those of a youngAnzu wyliei , but those of a more mature specimen, which could only belong to a species of dinosaurs unknown to science.
It was really exciting. I never thought I would one day discover a new species of dinosaur.
A quote from Kyle Atkins-Weltman of Oklahoma State University
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A femur of Eoneophron infernalis.
This dinosaur was covered in feathers and had relatively short wings and tail. Its toothless beak makes it difficult to determine its diet, says Kyle Atkins-Weltman, lead author of the work published in the journal PLoS ONE (New window). /p>
Kyle Atkins-Weltman named the new dinosaur Eoneophron infernalis, which translates to chicken from hell the dawn of Pharaoh. This name refers to the description of the Anzu as well as its late beloved pet, a Nile monitor lizard named Pharaoh.
To date, paleontologists have discovered three species of caenagnathids of varying sizes that inhabited the ecosystems of the Hell Creek Formation. Atkins-Weltman says this diversity supports the idea that these species were not in decline at the end of the Cretaceous.
Canadian scientists from the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum also participated in the work.