This Newly Discovered Dinosaur Looks Like Part Dino, Part Duck

Scientists uncovered fossils that have a lot in common with modern-day swimming birds like ducks and penguins. This new dinosaur species fills in gaps about what we know about the aquatic lifestyle of Cretaceous critters. The artist’s recreation below shows off its ability to float on the water’s surface but also dive below and swim after fish. The team dubbed the new dinosaur Natovenator polydontus, which is Latin for “swim hunter many tooth.” It’s those teeth that give the otherwise friendly looking creature an air of danger. Will we see them in the next Jurassic World movie, nibbling at the toes of unsuspecting tourists?

Illustration of dinosaur that look like a duck with white feathers swimming below and floating on water
Yusik Choi

Paleontologists discovered the fossils in the Gobi desert of Mongolia. Sometimes teams only find a few bones and have to recreate complete skeletons based on their best educated guesses. For example, the most complete T. rex skeleton only includes about half of the bones. There’s even some species that are known only from a single fossil. This find, however, consists of a nearly complete skull with many teeth as well as most of the neck, tail and limbs. In the image below, white bones represent those that the team uncovered and studied.

The peer-reviewed journal Communications Biology published the research, which we heard about from ScienceNews. Natovenator‘s streamlined body includes rib and limb bones that are flatter than those of other land-based dinosaurs. They are more similar to aquatic reptiles like crocodiles and turtles.

Outline of a small dinosaur with bones found highlighted white
S. Lee et al., Nature Communications (2022)

Though bones can only tell us so much about what animals really looked like, the scientific and artistic renderings of this new dinosaur definitely look like a combination of ducks, penguins, and velociraptors that we wouldn’t want to run into in the wild. It joins the much larger semi-aquatic Spinosaurus, which was also adapted to be an excellent swimmer.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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