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June 29, 2017

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'Chicken from hell' sheds new light on bird-like dino

WASHINGTON--Nicknamed the "chicken from hell," a newly identified species of feathered dinosaur as tall as a human roamed North America at least 66 million years ago, paleontologists announced Wednesday.

With a hen-like crest on its head, lanky legs like an ostrich, sharp claws on its forelimbs and jaws built for crushing eggs and prey, the Anzu wyliei weighed a hefty 440-660 pounds (200-300 kilograms).

The long-tailed creature is the largest known member of the legendary "egg-thief" dinosaurs, known as Oviraptorosaurs, which are closely related to birds, said the study in the journal PLOS ONE.

"We jokingly call this thing the 'chicken from hell,' and I think that's pretty appropriate," said lead author Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A collection of fossilized bones from three separate dinosaurs provided the first nearly complete glimpse of the 3.5 meter-long (11.5-foot) beast that stood 1.5 meters (five feet) high at the hip.

"It would be scary, as well as absurd, to encounter," said co-author Emma Schachner, a biology postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah.

The dinosaur was named after Anzu, a bird-demon from Mesopotamian mythology, and Wylie, the grandson of a museum trustee.

Related to Asian Cousins

The skeletal pieces were found over a decade ago in the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota, where many other fossils have been found, including those of T. rex and Triceratops.

The Anzu specimens are dated to between 66 and 68 million years old, very close to the end of the dinosaur era some 65 million years ago when an asteroid is believed to have wiped them out.

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