In the 1960s, researchers unearthed two gigantic dinosaur arms. For decades, scientists have speculated about what kind of beast they belonged to.
Now, the rest of the dinosaur's body has been unearthed, and researchers say that the creature is even more bizarre than they had thought.
Now before you read the rest of this article, I should explain the reason for my sarcastic comments. I don't doubt the science of paleontology, but I have grave concerns for the amount of imagination that is involved in creating creatures from a few bones. It began when I found out about Nebraska Man.
|Nebraska Man - Amedee Forestier|
Then there was Piltdown Man. Discovered in 1912 by Charles Dawson was widely accepted by European scientists as legitimate, turned out to be the jawbone of an orangutan, the cranium of a human, and the filed-down teeth of a chimpanzee. It took 40 years for the hoax to be revealed.
|The real 'Nebraska Man'|
Holy bacon, Batman!
Archaeologist Miles Russell of Bournemouth University wrote: "Piltdown was not a 'one-off' hoax, more the culmination of a life's work." He had discovered that 38 previous archaeological discoveries by Charles Dawson, were fakes.
There are so many other examples of error, deliberate or otherwise, that I will have to do a piece just on that.
They say it was huge, with a beak, a humped back and giant, hoofed feet.
The study is published in the journal Nature.
Lead researcher Yuong-Nam Lee, from South Korea's Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (Kigam), said: "It turned out to be one of the weirdest dinosaurs, it's weird beyond our imagination."
|Reconstruction of |
Its name Deinocheirus mirificus means unusual, horrible hands. In various reconstructions, it has been imagined as anything from a T. rex-type predator grasping at prey with its claws, to a giant, sloth-like climber, using its arms to dangle from trees.
But the discovery of two nearly complete skeletons in Mongolia have finally laid this speculation to rest.
The international research team says the beast was very large, measuring about 11m (36ft) long and weighing six tonnes.
It had an elongated head with a duck-like beak, and a large humped sail on its back.
Its legs were short and stumpy, but its feet were very large with hooves, which would have prevented it from sinking into the boggy wetlands where it lived. Boggy wetlands in Mongolia!?
The researchers think that the beast was probably a very slow mover. The contents of its stomach suggest that it ate plants and fish.
So what is the point of the long arms with claws? Neither are necessary, or even particularly useful for catching fish or eating plants. Is this an evolutionary aberration?
Dr Yuong-Nam Lee said: "We did not know their function before, but the long forearms with giant claws may have been used for digging and gathering herbaceous plants in freshwater habitats."
Commenting on the research Prof John Hutchinson, a palaeontologist from the UK's Royal Veterinary College, said: "Many dinosaur fans have seen pictures of the 8ft-long arms and hands, and they really are amazing and wonderful. People were really wondering what the rest of this animal looked like.
"Now we know, and it's just so freaking weird - we never would have expected this animal to look so bizarre.
"It really is shocking to see how many weird features it has. It changes our view of what kind of forms dinosaurs can even take."
Archaeology and paleontology are constantly re-writing history. Almost every significant find result in a re-write, meaning, they had it wrong every time, and there is no reason to believe they have it right this time.