By MALCOLM RITTER
AP Science Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- It's called the chicken from hell: a birdlike
dinosaur some 7 feet tall that weighed around 500 pounds when it roamed
western North America on its long, slender hind legs.
The beast got its nickname long ago at the Carnegie Museum of Natural
History in Pittsburgh, where a replica of its skeleton has been on
display for a decade.
But the species has had no scientific name. Until now.
The creature was formally introduced to the scientific community
Wednesday as scientists published a description and analysis of its
anatomy, and finally bestowed a name: Anzu wyliei. The moniker comes
from a mythological feathered demon plus the name of a Carnegie museum
Anzu had a toothless beak and a crest on its skull like a rooster's
comb, combined with long arms and sharp claws up to about 4 inches long.
It apparently also had feathers over much of its body.
The analysis, in the journal PLoS One, concludes that Anzu belongs to
a group of dinosaurs that scientists knew little about, because they
had recovered only fragmentary remains from its members. In contrast,
the three specimens of Anzu from North and South Dakota that were
included in the analysis collectively supply a nearly complete skeleton,
said Matthew Lamanna of the Carnegie museum.
Anzu "reveals the anatomy of these creatures almost from head to toe," said Lamanna, lead author of the new paper.
The dinosaur lived some 66 million to 68 million years ago in a hot
and humid landscape, rather like the Louisiana bayou, he said. It ate
plants and maybe small animals when it wasn't fleeing from a hungry and
much bigger T. rex, he said.
When it came to naming the creature, why not go with a spiffed-up version of "chicken from hell?"
That was actually the first choice, Lamanna said. But it turns out the phrase isn't nearly as catchy in Latin or Greek.
"All the names we came up with were just ridiculously unpronounceable," he said.
So "I thought that if I couldn't come up with a name that literally
meant 'chicken from hell,' I could at least name it 'feathered demon.' "