'Chicken From Hell' Dinosaur: Insane-Looking New Raptor Species Roamed The Dakotas Alongside T. Rex

on March 19, 2014 5:11 PM EDT

chicken from hell
The newly-described "chicken from hell" dinosaur roamed the Dakotas 66 million years ago. (Photo: Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum)

Scientists from Carnegie and Smithsonian museums and the University of Utah have unveiled a very interesting new dinosaur species. How interesting? "We jokingly call this thing the 'chicken from hell,' and I think that's pretty appropriate," says Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pa. 

In a study published today in PLoS One, Lamanna and his team describe the 500-pound raptor, a sharp-clawed, bird-like dinosaur which roamed the Dakotas 66 million years ago alongside T. rex. The dinosaur has been named Anzu wyliei; the first part of the name comes from the bird-like demon Anzu from Mesopotamian mythology, while the second part is named after a boy named Wylie, a grandson of a Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh trustee.

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"It was a giant raptor, but with a chicken-like head and presumably feathers," says University of Utah biology postdoctoral fellow Emma Schachner, a co-author of the study. "The animal stood about 10 feet tall, so it would be scary as well as absurd to encounter."

The three partial skeletons of the chicken from hell came from, well, hell: the Hell Creek Formation, that is, in North and South Dakota, which has been a rich source of T. rex and Triceratops fossils. Taken together, the three Anzu wyliei skeletons make up almost one full skeleton 11.5 feet long and almost 5 feet tall at the hip. Given the prominent sharp claws of Anzu, the researchers believe the dinosaur was an omnivore, eating small animals, vegetation and maybe eggs as well. The creepy looking dinosaur featured a toothless beak and a rather interesting crest on its head.

"I am really excited about this discovery because Anzu is the largest oviraptorosaur found in North America," says Schachner. "Oviraptorosaurs are a group of dinosaurs that are closely related to birds and often have strange, cassowary-like crests on their heads." 

The three partial skeleton fossils were discovered a number of years ago, and it wasn't until 2005 that the four study authors met at a conference and realized they all had parts of the same species.  

"Naming a dinosaur is one of those things I've wanted to be involved in since I was a kid," says Schachner.

The dinosaur is on display at the Carnegie Museum.

READ MORE:

New Dinosaur Species Discovered: Ferocious T. Rex Cousin Was Europe's Largest Land Predator

Dinosaur Embryo Frozen Mid-Birth Gives Paleontologists Rare Snapshot Of Ancient Reptile Baby-Making

Rare, Most Complete Baby Dinosaur Fossil Ever Stumbled Upon By High School Student

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