A new species of penguin-like diving dinosaur has been discovered

A new species of penguin-like diving dinosaur has been discovered



CNN

A new study found evidence that at least one dinosaur species was an adept swimmer, diving into water like a duck to hunt its prey.

The study, published in Communication Biology on Dec. 1, a newly discovered species, Natovenator describes polydontus. The theropod, or dinosaur with a hollow body with three toes and claws on each limb, lived in Mongolia during the Upper Cretaceous Period, 145 to 66 million years ago.

Scientists from the National University of Seoul, the University of Alberta and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences contributed to the paper.

The researchers pointed out that Natovenator had streamlined ribs, like those of diving birds.

“Its body shape suggests that Natovenator was a potentially capable swimming predator, and its streamlined body evolved independently in separate lineages of theropod dinosaurs,” the authors wrote.

The Natovenator specimen is very similar to Halszkaraptor, another dinosaur discovered in Mongolia that scientists believe was probably semi-aquatic. But the Natovenator specimen is more complete than the Halszkaraptor, making it easier for scientists to see its streamlined body shape.

Both Natovenator and Halszkaraptor likely used their forearms to propel them through the water, the researchers explained.

David Hone, a paleontologist and professor at Queen Mary University in London, told CNN it’s hard to say exactly where Natovenator falls on the spectrum from fully terrestrial to fully aquatic. But the specimen’s arms “look like they would be pretty good at moving water,” he said. Hone participated in the peer review for the study Communication Biology.

In addition, Natovenator had dense bones, which are essential for animals that dive below the surface of the water.

As the authors wrote, it had a “relatively hydrodynamic body”.

The next step, Hone said, would be to model the dinosaur’s body shape to help scientists understand exactly how it might have moved. “Does it paddle with its feet, a bit of a doggy paddle? How fast can it go?”

Further research should also look at the environment in which Natovenator lived. The specimen was discovered in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, but there is evidence that lakes and other bodies of water may have existed in the desert in the past.

“There’s really talk of, okay, you have a swimming dinosaur in the desert, what is it swimming in?” he said. “Finding the fossil record of those lakes is going to be difficult, but sooner or later we might find one. And if we do, we might find a lot more of these things.

Nizar Ibrahim, an associate professor of paleontology at the University of Portsmouth whose research includes findings suggesting that Spinosaurus was likely semi-aquatic, told CNN he’s still not entirely convinced by the study’s findings. He argued that a more rigorous quantitative analysis would have made the findings more convincing.

“For example, I would have liked to see a really solid description of bone density, the animal’s osteohistology, within a larger data set,” he said. “Even the rib anatomy, if they put that into a bigger picture — the big data set that would have been helpful.”

The “anatomical evidence is less straightforward” for a swimming Natovenator than for a swimming Spinosaurus, he said.

And just like Hone, he is also curious in which waters Natovenator has swum exactly. “The environment in which this animal was found in Mongolia is the exact opposite of what you would expect from a water-loving animal,” he said.

But he hopes the study can help open the door to more comprehensive ideas about dinosaur behavior. Dinosaurs used to be thought to be strictly terrestrial, but mounting evidence has emerged that at least some species spent as much time in the water as they did on land.

“I’m sure there will be many more surprises,” said Ibrahim. “And we’ll find that the dinosaurs were not only around for a very long time, but also, you know, very diverse and very good at penetrating new environments.”



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