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10 Handy Facts About Deinocheirus

Five years ago, there wasn’t much one could say about Deinocheirus—but thanks to some amazing new discoveries, we can finally start connecting the dots and exposing the secrets of this enigmatic creature.

1. For Over Four Decades, It Was a Cryptic Mystery Dino.

Our story begins at the height of the Cold War. While exploring Mongolia in 1965, a Soviet team stumbled upon two massive and sinister-looking fossilized arms. At eight feet long each (!), these clearly came from an animal of frightening proportions—a beast which was promptly given the name Deinocheirus, or “terrible hand.”

But, in retrospect, perhaps it should’ve been called “terrible tease,” because the rest of Deinocheirus’ skeleton was missing! For years, those awesome appendages (and their shoulder girdles) were like the tantalizing trailer of a movie that was never released. With bated breath, dino enthusiasts hoped that Deinocheirus’ elusive body would eventually emerge. Finally, decent specimens started popping up in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

2. Deinocheirus is the Largest-Known “Ostrich Dino.”

Ornithomimids, or “ostrich dinosaurs” (as they’re sometimes colloquially called), were a group of bipedal omnivores which roamed North America and Asia during the Cretaceous period (145.5 to 65.5 million years ago). By default, the most famous species is Gallimimus, an animal that regularly zips into Universal Pictures’ Jurassic Park series.

3. It Would have Led a Relatively Slow-Moving Lifestyle.

Gallimimus and other ornithomimids are usually imagined as reptilian speed demons, but the 35-foot-long Deinocheirus utterly dwarfs its kin. To support its plus-sized physique, the dinosaur’s pelvis and hind legs are unusually thick by ornithomimid standards, indicating that Deinocheirus was more adept at lumbering than sprinting. 

4. Deinocheirus Had a Fishy Diet.

Though its jaws and beak seem custom-made for handling veggies, plants weren’t Deinocheirus’ only option: some mashed-up fish remains (scales, bones, etc.) were found inside one specimen’s stomach.

5. It Had a Feathery Tuft at the Tip of its Tail.

Here’s a fun word: pygostyle, which, in Greek, means “rump pillar.” These are fused bony clumps on the ends of modern bird tails that are designed to support feathers. Interestingly, Deinocheirus had a small one, which was probably topped in a small, feathery fan. 

6. Surprisingly, Deinocheirus Had a Sail on Its Back.

It’s an accessory nobody saw coming! Though sail-backed dinosaurs are nothing new, no other ornithomimid is known to have sported anything even remotely akin to the huge, hump-like ornament that gave Deinocheirus its distinctive profile.

7. Its Forelimbs Belonged to a Class of Their Own.

Danny Cicchetti, Wikimedia Commons

Deinocheirus and the equally-bizarre Therizinosaurus (which would have shared its habitat) are noteworthy for having the longest arms of any bipedal dinosaur we’ve yet discovered.

8. Perhaps Deinocheirus Waded for Food Like an Oversized Waterfowl.

Did this off-beat dino frequent waterways? It’s been hypothesized that Deinocheirus’ wide, blunt toe claws would have helped prevent its feet from sinking into muddy riverbanks and, accordingly, the animal might have collected aquatic weeds and unlucky fish from the water’s edge.

9. Apparently, a Few Specimens Became Tyrannosaur Chow. 

Bite marks (presumably) belonging to Tarbosaurus bataar—a carnivore so similar to T. rex that some believe it should be reclassified as a species of Tyrannosaurus—are clearly visible on a few Deinocheirus bone fragments.

10. Some Priceless Deinocheirus Material Was Poached and Nearly Lost.

When Canadian paleontologist Phil Currie came upon an incredibly rare Deinocheirus specimen in 2009, he soon realized that somebody else had gotten to it first. The site was in shambles, with trampled fossils strewn about haphazardly and even a bit of money tucked away beneath a nearby stone. Sadly AWOL were—among other things—this Deinocheirus’ skull and feet. However, word of Currie’s find soon got out, and before long, the scientist was contacted by a European collector who’d acquired some very intriguing fossils that, lo and behold, turned out to be the missing pieces in question.  

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LEGO
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New LEGO Set Recreates Jurassic Park's Iconic Velociraptor Chase Scenes
LEGO
LEGO

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, is skulking into theaters on June 22. That makes now the perfect time to revisit the original film in LEGO form.

This LEGO set, spotted by Nerdist, depicts some of the most suspenseful scenes from the 1993 movie. There's the main computer room where Ariana Richards's Lex shows off her hacker skills while Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) struggle to keep a hungry dinosaur from barging in. Just like in the film, the door features a deadbolt lock that's velociraptor-proof (though, unfortunately for the characters, the detachable window is not). Other Easter eggs hidden in this part include a map of Isla Nublar and a screener saver of LEGO Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight).

In the neighboring room, you'll find the cold storage unit where the dinosaur embryos are kept, along with the fake shaving cream can Nedry uses to steal them. The final section is the kitchen, where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex are stalked by the velociraptor. There's less room for them to hide in the LEGO version compared to the movie set, but there is at least one functioning cabinet for Lex to tuck herself into. Closer inspection reveals even more details from the film, like the lime-green Jello Lex is eating when the raptors first arrive and the step ladder the gang uses to escape into the air ducts during the final chase.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

The Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set is currently available from the LEGO shop for $40.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of LEGO.

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CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
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science
Why Are There No More Dinosaurs?
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Actually, there are still dinosaurs: Birds! But let’s talk about that a little later. Scientists have found clues in rocks and fossils that tell us that by 65 million years ago, the climate (CLY-met), or usual weather, of the Earth had changed a lot, becoming cooler and drier. That was hard on the heat-loving dinosaurs. But that’s not why almost all of the dinosaurs became extinct, or disappeared forever. Scientists think a terrible event occurred that killed them off.

In 1991, scientists discovered a huge 110-mile-long crater, or hole, in the Gulf of Mexico. They think this crater was made by a giant, fiery, 6-mile-wide asteroid (AST-er-oyd) from space that smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact was more powerful than any bomb we have ever known. Scientists believe this event killed most plant and animal life—including the dinosaurs. The asteroid probably caused shockwaves, earthquakes, fireballs, wildfires, and tidal, or really big, waves. It also sent huge amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, which is like a big blanket of air that surrounds the Earth. That was really bad for the planet.

The dust blocked sunlight, making the planet very cold and dark. Then, over time, the gases trapped heat, causing the Earth to get even hotter than it was before the asteroid hit. This change was deadly for most dinosaurs, and they became extinct. But birds survived. Many millions of years earlier, they had evolved (ee-VOL-ved), or changed slowly over time, from one group of dinosaurs. And when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammals diversified (die-VERSE-uh-fide), or changed, into many different kinds of animals—including us, many millions of years later. So the next time you see a bird swoop by, wave hello to the little flying dinosaur!    


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