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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Giant Dinosaur Fossil Found in China

NEW YORK -- Scientists have uncovered a huge surprise in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China: the fossil skeleton of an unusually robust, birdlike dinosaur that lived 70 million years ago.

The animal appeared to be a young adult 7.62 meters long and weighing 1,360 kilograms and, if it had lived longer, would probably have grown even larger.

Paleontologists said the discovery contradicted widely held theories that carnivorous dinosaurs got smaller as they evolved more birdlike characteristics. But they emphasized that the new specimen did not challenge the theorized dinosaur-bird link.

The Chinese scientists who made the discovery, being reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, said the skeleton belonged to a dinosaur family that included the beaked, birdlike Oviraptor, a family not closely related to the ancestors of modern birds.

Impressed by the size and puzzling character of their find, a team led by Xing Xu, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, classified the animal as a new genus and species.

It was given the name Gigantoraptor erlianensis, the specific name recognizing the Erlian basin of Inner Mongolia, where the skeleton was excavated.

Gigantoraptor appears in an artist's reconstruction, based on scientific analysis, to have cut a menacing figure on the Cretaceous landscape. Rearing on its hind limbs, it spread out forelimbs tipped with sharp claws and prepared to bounce on prey with a strong beak.

Mark Norell, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, said the find was "pretty unexpected" and showed "how little we still know."