The so-called Natovenator polydontus, found in Mongolia, is considered a rare theropod for having led a semi-aquatic life, something unusual in this type of dinosaur.
A group of researchers has discovered a new dinosaursimilar in size and appearance to a goose, which had the ability to dive to capture their prey underwateras detailed in a recent study published on Thursday (01.12.2022) by the journal Communications Biology.
The well-preserved remains of this rare prehistoric animal, called by paleontologists as Natovenator polydontuswere unearthed in the Gobi desert in Mongolia, in a place that for decades has been a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils.
N. polydontus, which means ‘swimming thief’, is a theropod dinosaur that was about 45 cm long and had a skull about 7 cm long, and lived about 72 million years ago in the Cretaceous period. Researchers say it had a streamlined body, covered in feathers, a long snout like a geese’s, and 100 little teeth.
He had the ability to dive
Although it was a cousin of the fast and small predator Velociraptor, N. polydontus was adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle in a freshwater ecosystemperhaps floating in rivers and lakes, paddling on their limbs or diving to capture prey, the researchers said.
“It was an animal very prepared to live in an environment that is not typical for an animal related to Velociraptor and its other relatives. Most people think of dinosaurs as specialized land animals, which They don’t compete with crocodiles in the water.”said University of Alberta paleontologist and study co-author Philip Currie.
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Theropods, dinosaurs with great diversity
N. polydontus is part of a group of dinosaurs called theropods. The best known are the large carnivores, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Tarbosaurus and the Giganotosaurus. But these species, which shared bipedalism and being feathered, evolved in unusual directions with examples such as the Therizinosaurus or the Struthiomimus.
“The diversity of theropod dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous is absolutely mind-boggling”added Currie.
“I think there will be more fascinating and strange theropod discoveries in the future,” said lead author Yuong-Nam Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea.
Little information about semi-aquatic dinosaurs
Unlike Cretaceous diving birds, not much is known about these types of dinosaurs with semi-aquatic capabilities. A close relative of N. polydontus named Halszkaraptor, lived a similar lifestyle around the same time and in the same region. They both looked very bird-like. and they were closely related to the lineage of birds.
“The Natovenator is an amazing animal for several reasons. First, it is small and delicate. When we found it, we weren’t sure what kind it was because it looked more like a lizard or mammal skeleton than a dinosaur. Once studied, we realized it was a theropod dinosaur,” Currie said.
“More than 30 different lineages of tetrapods (terrestrial vertebrates) have independently invaded aquatic ecosystems. Why not dinosaurs?”Lee concluded.