Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Dinosaur in China and a Chicken from Hell in the U.S.

Across the Jianjiang River (鉴江) from the Baoguang Tower (宝光塔) in Gaozhou (高州), Guangdong province, a dinosaur spotted me last Monday.

Chicken, Jianjiang River, and Baoguang Tower in Gaozhou

The dinosaur was clearly indignant at having been tethered.

Chicken, Jianjiang River, and Baoguang Tower in Gaozhou

Despite it still being able to move around to some degree, it displayed much pluck by holding its ground when I came nearer.

Chicken and Jianjiang River in Gaozhou

Regarding any questions about labeling this fine animal as a dinosaur, I will share an informative comic from xkcd:

Birds and Dinosaurs

On that note, perhaps the formidable attitude of the dinosaur, more commonly called a chicken, I met was passed down for generations from the "chicken from hell", more formally known as the Anzu wyliei:

Anzu wyliei, the "chicken from hell"
Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Details about the Anzu wyliei, "a 600-pound cross between an ostrich and a velociraptor", were recently published, Christopher Joyce for NPR explained the "chicken from hell" nickname:
For the past decade, dinosaur scientists have been puzzling over a set of fossil bones they variously describe as weird and bizarre. Now they've figured out what animal they belonged to: a bird-like creature they're calling "the chicken from hell."

There are two reasons for the name.

First: If you took a chicken, crossed it with an ostrich, bulked it up to 500 pounds, stretched it out to roughly 11 feet, put a bony crest on its head (like some ancient Greek helmet), added a dinosaur tail and a pair of forelimbs with five-inch claws, and then, finally, stuck some feathers on it ... you would have what paleontologist Matt Lamanna formally calls Anzu wyliei ...

Reason two for the nickname: The three new specimens Lamanna has now put together were dug up from the Hell Creek geological formation in Montana and the Dakotas.

Although the research did not address what it tasted like, Christine Dell'Amore for National Geographic explained how researchers deduced what the Anzu itself ate:
Physical features on the North American skeletons indicate Anzu dined on a variety of items from the Cretaceous smorgasbord, including vegetation, small animals, and possibly eggs.

Small prongs of bone found on the skulls' palates may have helped the dinosaurs swallow eggs; the same prongs are found today in egg-eating snakes.

The dinosaur also had big hands with large, curved claws, which are usually found on animals that grab small prey to shove down their throats.

And the Anzu's jaw shape suggested it could shear pieces off plants.
Fortunately, the dinosaur in Gaozhou did not possess large curved claws and did not eat me.

As far as its own fate, after noticing a change in its demeanor, I realized it was no longer tethered by the string. I'm not sure how this came about, and I decided it was best to avoid interfering with a proud relative of the Anzu. As I departed, it also walked away. I don't know where it went but ...

... there was a road nearby.

untethered chicken walking in Gaozhou

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