A new bird from the family of Oviraptors (the egg-stealers among dinos) has been discovered by paleontologist Xing Xu and team of the Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in the Gobi Desert in north-central China.
Initially thought have belonged to the T-rex family (see artists scale- drawing), this giant “bird of prey” is now grouped under the family of smaller raptors – an unusual reunion.!
The finding complicates the evolutionary descent of birds from dinosaurs. Progressively from within advanced theropods as you come to birds, their size gets smaller and smaller. But after some species originate and spring off the bird line, you get secondary gigantism.
“Big size has some advantages such as having fewer predators and having more food resources that are unavailable for small animals,” Xu notes. He is joined by Thomas R. Holtz Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland at College Park who adds “ Gigantoraptors grew muc h faster and reached adulthood more quickly than did tyrannosaurs. There was an incentive [for such a creature] to get big really soon” Size is certainly a defense. And there is ample evidence to believe that these giant-birds lived at a time when T-rex ruled the earth.
The length and proportions of Gigantoraptor’s leg bones hint at another of the dinosaur’s survival skills – its speed. The bird-like femur suggests it would have been among the fastest dinosaurs of its body size.
It also is not clear whether the creature was feathered, though Xu speculates it was like most other animals in its lineage. If so, it would be by far the largest known feathered animal of all time.