New from the Gobi Desert is a fossil of a predatory dinosaur that dwarfed its known relatives.
Chinese discoverer Xu Xing wrote that, after he found a leg bone he could not identify, "When I went back to my geologist colleague Lin Tan's lab to check the skeleton, I was shocked. I said to Tan, 'It is not a sauropod, it is not a tyrannosaurus, it is a tyrannosaurus-sized oviraptor. We have a gigantic chicken!' "
Gigantoraptor erlianensis stood almost five meters tall, weighed about 1.4 metric tons, and was well armed with claws. It had no teeth in its beaklike mouth, though, and paleontologists are not sure what kind of diet the creature had. It's believed to have had feathers, mainly for display, on the arms and tail. It is several times the size of any other dinosaurs in its family.
University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno commented, "But what kind of environment on Earth was this animal adapted to? It's off the charts, and with no teeth what did it eat? Did it use those long legs to escape from predators? It's clearly a pre-flight bird, but no one would have predicted its evolution, so the door seems open to a new way of living for a new kind of dinosaur."