Chinese construction workers uncovered a new species of feathered dinosaur as they worked excavating bedrock.
Using dynamite explosives to loosen up the earth, the crew nearly destroyed the fossil with their heavy equipment.
The dinosaur, which has been dubbed Tongtianlong limosus (or “muddy dragon on the road to heaven”), reportedly lived 66 to 72 million years ago, right before the dinosaurs went extinct.
A two-legged dinosaur, he likely died after becoming stuck in the mud. Because of the way he died, his body was extremely well-preserved, with his limbs outstretched and its head up, likely attempting to attract attention for help in his final moments.
The new discovery looked a lot like a modern day bird, however was unable to take flight the way most birds are today. He also likely had a short head, was toothless and had a sharp beak for pecking at things. On the smaller side, he was likely about the size of a large sheep or a smaller donkey.
Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, stated of the fossil:
“This new dinosaur is one of the most beautiful, but saddest, fossils I’ve ever seen. But we’re lucky that the mud dragon got stuck in the muck, because its skeleton is one of the best examples of a dinosaur that was flourishing during those final few million years before the asteroid came down and changed the world in an instant.”
Several species of this type of dinosaur have been found recently in the Ganzhou area of China, where this new fossil was found. They belong to a grouping called oviraptorosaurs, which is beginning to give scientists incredible insight into how and why so many similar looking dinosaurs developed in the same area. This discovery marks the sixth new, but similar species to be found in the same area.
It is suspected that so many of them developed in the same place due to evolutionary radiation.
“They were diversifying during those few million years before the asteroid hit. They are a sign that dinosaurs were still doing well at this time, still making new species, still dominating ecosystems.”