New dinosaur looks like odd mix of duck, croc, ostrich, swan

Halszkaraptor was not a knife-toed murder bird but rather an aquatic toothy pseudo-goose

Halszkaraptor was not a knife-toed murder bird but rather an aquatic toothy pseudo-goose. Lukas Panzarin

Scientists have discovered a odd dinosaur that looked like a duck, with a neck like a swan, flippers like a penguin, and claws and teeth like a crocodile.

The dino-duck (that's a term I made up), is about 75 million years old and hails from what is now Mongolia.

"When I saw the fossil the first time, I was shocked", says Andrea Cau, a paleontologist at the University of Bologna and coauthor of the study describing the dinosaur appearing this week in Nature.

The fossil of Halszka took an interesting journey.

The fossil was poached from a fossil site in southern Mongolia and sold to private collectors before being spotted by French fossil dealer François Escuillié, who verified its authenticity, acquired it and provided it to researchers.

Godefroit thought that it was such a weird dinosaur.

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The unusual turkey-sized, bird-like creature boasted a swan's neck, arms resembling flippers, long legs and lived in on rivers and lakes.

"It was so unusual that we suspected that it might have been a chimera - a mix of different skeletons glued together", said University of Bologna's Andrea Cau, who joined Godefroit's team in investigating the specimen and the lead author of the study. The giant fish-eating theropod Spinosaurus became the first dinosaur known to swim in 2014, and it may have spent most of its time in water.

An global team of researchers used 3D synchrotron analysis to study the fossil, which revealed that the dinosaur lived in present-day Mongolia during the Cretaceous Period. Its Velociraptor-like claw was likely not used much for hunting, and its arms were likely used to paddle through the water.

"Halszkaraptor was able to run like all dinosaurs, and probably hunted its prey using an ambush strategy that used the long neck to quickly catch small animals".

Halszka's hind legs, meanwhile, apparently allowed it to stand in an upright position, similar to how the ducks and ostriches of today stand.

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