Giant 'chicken from hell' dinosaur discovered

Weighing 500 pounds, the "Anzu wyliei" walked on two legs and stretched some 11 feet in length.
By Brooks Hays  |  Updated April 3, 2014 at 5:22 PM
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A new species of feathered dinosaur, the largest to roam North America, has been identified by paleontologists. Even the most fearsome rooster wouldn't stand a chance in a cock fight with the Anzu wyliei, the "chicken from hell."

Armed with its razor sharp claws and intimidating beak, the Anzu wyliei walked on two legs and stretched some 11 feet in length. The bird could way as much as 500 pounds, paleontologists say.

The Anzu wyliei is a member for the oviraptorosaur family, a group bird-like dinos found in Central Asia and North America that ranged in size from a few pounds to more than a metric ton. Experts say the dino-bird mostly fed on vegetation, small animals, and eggs.

In the 1990s, dino-diggers began finding evidence of the newest species at dig sites on the Great Plains of the U.S. Similar bones also began showing up in Asia -- the remnants of a close relative to the Anzu wyliei.

It's taken years for scientists to piece together a clear picture of the new North American dinosaur, but now a group of paleontologists has three complete skeletons.

"We had little bits and pieces of it," Hans-Dieter Sues, of the Smithsonian, told NPR, "but now we have, for the first time, a complete picture of what this creature look[ed] like ... certainly a remarkably odd-looking creature."

Part of the reason the "chicken from hell" earned its infernal nickname is that the newest specimens were sourced from the Hell Creek geological formation in Montana and the Dakotas.

The discovery was recently detailed in the online journal PLOS ONE.

"We've got almost a whole skeleton from head to toe,", Matt Lamanna, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, told National Geographic. "Not only can we characterize a whole new species, we can characterize a whole group that has remained a huge mystery."

[NPR] [National Geographic]

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