Mongolian fossil is the first known species of streamlined, non-avian theropod dinosaur that walked on two legs

Reconstructing the life of Natovenator polydontus. Credit: Yosek Choi

A team of researchers from Seoul National University, the University of Alberta and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences has identified the first known example of a streamlined, non-avian bipedal dinosaur. In their paper published in Communication biologyThe collection describes where the fossil was found, its condition, and characteristics that have been used to help identify it as a new type of dinosaur.

The dinosaur was excavated from the Hermen Tsav Fossil Formation in Mongolia in 2008 as part of the International Korea-Mongolian Dinosaur Expedition. Since that time, it has been stored with hundreds of other fossils awaiting study by experts.

In their study of the fossil, the researchers found that it was well-preserved and almost complete—it had most of its hind limbs, one of its forelimbs, most of its skull and most of its spine. It also has a mouth full of teeth. The researchers noted that the skeleton was similar in shape to many modern waterfowl, smooth and adorned, indicating that it lived on or near water and survived marine hunting.

The researchers also note that its ribs point toward its tail, which is another common feature of waterfowl. But it was not a bird – there was no sign of wings. The researchers also note that the general shape of the skeleton strongly suggests that it did not use its forelimbs for walking, likely giving it a penguin-like gait.

Their findings indicate that the dinosaur belonged to the theropod family and had not been previously identified; Thus, it represents a newly discovered species. They called it Natovenator polydontus, which roughly translates to “the fisherman who swims and has a lot of teeth.” They also suggest that it was very similar to Halscaraptor, another non-avian dinosaur that also lived in what is now Mongolia.

The dinosaur was found in a rock formation that dates back to the Upper Cretaceous period, which puts it from approximately 100 million to 66 million years ago. The researchers suggest that it was adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle that was similar to modern waterfowl, although its large number of teeth indicates that it had a more varied diet.

more information:
Sungjin Lee et al, a non-avian dinosaur with a streamlined body that displays potential adaptations for swimming, Communication biology (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s42003-022-04119-9

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