Scientists in Mongolia have discovered the skeleton of a never-before-seen duck-like dinosaur that lived about 71 millions year ago. The new species had a streamlined body like a modern-day penguin and could dive underwater to hunt for prey. The specimen is the first documentation of a non-avian therapod, a type of carnivorous two-legged dinosaur, having such a build.
There are studies showing how streamlined bodies help birds like today’s geese overcome underwater drag and effectively dive through water. But scientists have never found proof that non-avian prehistoric animals had the same abilities.
Fossilized remains of the duck-like dinosaur were found in Mongolia’s Omnogovi Province, and they included a skull, spinal column, one forelimb, and two hindlimbs. Using those remains, researchers conducted a new study that was published on Thursday in the journal Communications Biology.
The Duck-Like Dinosaur Had a Neck Like a Goose and ‘Many Teeth’
The findings suggest that the dinosaur was a semi-aquatic diving predator with ribs that pointed towards its tail, just like today’s modern diving birds. The researchers also found evidence that the creature had a long and elegant neck similar to a goose. With those body adaptations, it could dart through the water and grab its prey with ease. And the predator had an unusually high number of teeth for the size of its jaw.
Scientists named the species Natovenator polydontus, which translates to “swimming hunter with many teeth.”
“Because streamlining of the body provides hydrodynamic advantages during swimming, this particular dorsal rib morphology strongly indicates that Natovenator was a capable swimmer, providing the first compelling evidence of a streamlined body in a non-avian theropod dinosaur,” the authors wrote.
Researchers Hope to Find More Fossilized Remains in the Near Future
The authors believe that the dinosaur lived on a diet of fish or insects. But they can’t prove their theory without more evidence. They hope to one day find the fossilized remains of the Natoveator’s stomach contents so they can confirm.
The dinosaur was around the same size as a modern duck and likely used its forelimbs when swimming, said Yuong-Nam Lee, a vertebrate paleontologist at Seoul National University in South Korea.
“We think that Natovenator lived in shallow water and ate small fish,” he shared.
The creature is related to the halszkaraptorines, which is another group of dinosaurs that may have evolved with semi-aquatic capabilities like waterfowl.
“Its body shape suggests that Natovenator was a potentially capable swimming predator, and the streamlined body evolved independently in separate lineages of theropod dinosaurs,” scientists write in the study.