We already know that birds are dinosaurs. And most people can probably agree that ducks are birds. But somehow it's just really hard to bridge the mental gap between, say, Giganotosaurus and those little web-footed doofuses that hang out in the park and always sound congested. But a newly discovered fossil might show exactly how tremendous roars became little bitty quacks.

Quackosaurus Rex

Showing yet again why scientists shouldn't be allowed to name things, this goose-sized dinosaur bears the decidedly un-catchy title Halszkaraptor escuilliei — but in our hearts, it'll always be quackosaurus. Like a velociraptor, the dinosaur had a long, sharp claw on each foot and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Unlike a velociraptor, it also had a pair of broad, flat, flipper-like hands, sort of like a penguin. It also had a long, swan-like neck and a duck-like bill. As you can see, it was sort of a hodgepodge of features, and that's why the scientists who first described it doubted it was the real deal.

Halszkaraptor isn't the "platypus of dinosaurs," but it still inspired some skepticism when it first entered the academic record. "It was so strange that we suspected that it might have been a chimera — a mix of different skeletons glued together. It wouldn't be the first time," said Andrea Cau from the University of Bologna. That strange mixture added up to a very particular sort of lifestyle. With its flappy little arms, it probably chased after fish underwater just like a modern-day cormorant.

Artist's Illustration

Waddling Out of the Shadows

It wasn't just the fact that Halszkaraptor was apparently made up of a "greatest hits" of duck and dino features that led scientists to think it might be a [ahem] canard. It also came from a pretty suspicious source. This fossil came out of the black market — and we've already told you how problematic that can be. But after some tests, they determined that it was in all likelihood a legitimate fossil. For one thing, the 15-inch (38-centimeter) block of stone that the dinosaur was embedded in was found to be completely solid after it was scanned by a particle accelerator. And second of all, the parts of the skull outside of the stone were identical to those that were still locked inside. In other words, unlike its diet, the fossil of Halszkaraptor isn't very fishy at all.

If you just can't get enough dinos, check out "Dinosaurs - The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops" by Keiron Pim. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

A Duck-Like Dinosaur Is Among Oddest Fossils Yet Found

Written by Reuben Westmaas February 7, 2018

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