A newly discovered species of toothless, two-fingered dinosaur has shed light on how a group of parrot-like animals thrived more than 68 million years ago.
The unusual species had one less finger on each forearm than its close relatives, suggesting an adaptability which enabled the animals to spread during the Late Cretaceous Period, researchers say.
Multiple complete skeletons of the new species were unearthed in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia by a University of Edinburgh-led team.
Named Oksoko avarsan, the feathered, omnivorous creatures grew to around two metres long and had only two functional digits on each forearm. The animals had a large, toothless beak similar to the type seen in species of parrot today.
The remarkably well-preserved fossils provided the first evidence of digit loss in the three-fingered family of dinosaurs known as oviraptors.
The discovery that they could evolve forelimb adaptations suggests the group could alter their diets
Multiple skeletons of the Oksoko avarsan, a feathered omnivorous dinosaur that grew to 2meters in length, were dug up in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, according to a news statement published Tuesday.
It had a large, toothless beak like modern-day parrots and just two digits on each forearm — one less than its close relatives.
It’s the first time scientists have seen evidence of digit loss among oviraptors, a family of three-fingered dinosaurs.
Evolving to have fewer digits suggests they could also “alter their diets and lifestyles, and enabled them to diversify and multiply,” according to the statement.
The “very complete” juvenile skeletons were found resting together, showing that young Oksoko avarsan roamed in groups, said paleontologistGregory Funston, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh who led the study.
“But more importantly, its two-fingered hand prompted us to look at