Scientists thought a newly discovered dinosaur fossil was a fake for the same reason scientists once rejected the existence of the platypus. It’s just too darned goofy looking.
When European scientists encountered their first platypus skeleton, they thought the duck-billed mammal must surely be a fake. “It naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means,” English zoologist George Shaw wrote in 1799. The specimen looked like a bad attempt at a fake new species, destined for a low-budget freakshow collection.
Modern researchers are a bit more open minded, but it seems they had a similar reaction to the newly-discovered Halszkaraptor escuilliei.
Part of the reason for the skepticism was that the specimen had traveled around the fossil black market for a while, but looking at the artist’s rendition of the creature you can understand why paleontologists weren’t initially ready to accept it as authentic.
Then there’s the fact that Halszkaraptor escuilliei basically looks like a Velociraptorwith the neck of a swan. Oh, and flippers. It has flippers.
It’s basically a killer swan with flippers.
But this 75-million-year-old dino duck was very real, as Cau and his colleagues reported this week in the journal Nature. They used synchrotron multi-resolution X-ray microtomography to peer into the stone still surrounding much of the the fossil and pieced together a high-res image of the bones. The data helped rule out the possibility of a paleontological cut-and-paste job, and the paleontologists believe the odd duck’s features point to an amphibious lifestyle.
Its dork-a-saurus appearance doesn’t mean it wasn’t a formidable creature to tangle with though.
New odd duck dinosaur looks like Dr. Seuss mashed together bits of other critters; duck bill, croc teeth, swan neck, penguin flappers, raptors claws; It walk like ostrich & swims. https://t.co/joE9HD98Gz pic.twitter.com/HLpu8cTTQI
— seth borenstein (@borenbears) December 6, 2017
If you’ve ever been around swans or geese while they’re protecting eggs or young, you know that they can be vicious as hell. Imagine one with velociraptor claws and crocodile teeth.