Dinosaur Fossil Is One of the 'Saddest' Ever Found

Creature died with its wings and neck outstretched
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2016 7:29 AM CST
Dinosaur Fossil Is One of the 'Saddest' Ever Found
Scientists have named their discovery "muddy dragon on the road to heaven."   (Courtesy of Junchang Lu)

Workers were blasting through the ground of a school construction site in the Ganzhou region of China four years ago when they found what scientist Steve Brusatte is calling "one of the most beautiful, but saddest, fossils I've ever seen," reports the Telegraph. That's because the creature appears to have had some decidedly unlucky final moments, which left it with its wings splayed and head arched up. That's right, the well-preserved fossil shows a dinosaur that died stuck in a bog. "It is the first oviraptorid dinosaur preserved as struggling," one of the researchers tells the New York Times. Reporting in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists from China and Scotland say they've named the bird-like theropod Tongtianlong limosus, or "muddy dragon on the road to heaven."

It's the sixth species to be found in this part of southern China in five years, reports National Geographic, and while still fairly mysterious, a picture is beginning to emerge of the flightless, feathered dinosaur. It's about the size of a small donkey and belonged to a group of theropods called oviraptorosaurs—which "are some of the most unusual dinosaurs," the scientists write. Without teeth, it had a very sharp beak and seems to have been flourishing 70 million years ago, on the eve of the great asteroid impact that "changed the world in an instant," as Brusatte puts it. For this creature, at least, that instant came sooner, and likely didn't happen in a flash. (China is also home to a trove of 7,000-plus dino fossils.)

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