Hell Creek Formation reveals a 'chicken from hell'

by Mary Caperton Morton
Thursday, July 10, 2014

Anzu belongs to a mysterious group of theropods called Caenagnathidae, which were only known previously by a handful of fossils found in the 1920s. “Anzu is far and away the most complete caenagnathid that has ever been discovered,” said Matthew Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh in a statement. “After nearly a century of searching, we paleontologists finally have the fossils to show what these creatures looked like from virtually head to toe. And in almost every way, they’re even weirder than we imagined.”

Standing 2 meters high and 3 meters long, Anzu would have resembled a giant, flightless bird, complete with feathers, a toothless beak, and a tall, rounded head crest resembling that of a cassowary bird. “We named it after Anzu, a bird-like demon in ancient mythology,” Lamanna said.

Though Anzu would have been a formidable predator, it was likely an omnivore, Lamanna and colleagues reported in PLOS ONE. Analysis of the rocks encasing the fossils suggest that Anzu was preserved in a tropical floodplain environment, a markedly different habitat from other Oviraptors, which are usually found in arid habitats.

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