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Groundbreaking discovery of new 'chicken from hell' brings to light a dinosaur we didn't know about

A Ph.D. student's 'heart skipped a beat' when he chanced upon the fossils of new species of dinosaurs.

Groundbreaking discovery of new 'chicken from hell' brings to light a dinosaur we didn't know about
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

A researcher bought some fossils for one of his projects online and thought he knew what he was buying, but it turned out he did not. Kyle Atkins-Weltman, a Ph.D. student of paleoecology at Oklahoma State University, ordered Anzu Wylie fossils, a dinosaur dubbed as "chicken from hell," reports NPR. But he was shocked to find out that the fossils were quite different from what he had thought, as the bones were smaller than he expected. He thought it might be from a young Anzu and sent them to an anatomy professor for further investigation. And the results brought to light astonishing details about a dinosaur we had no clue existed. 


He said that when he received the results a few months later, his "heart skipped a beat." The bones weren't from an Anzu or any other known dinosaurs, as Atkins-Weltman had discovered a new species, according to The Washington Post. He revealed the discovery of a birdlike species that was similar to Anzu but much smaller and is called Eoneophron infernalis. It reportedly had long claws and legs, toothless beaks, feathers across their bodies and short tails, just like Anzu. But Eoneophron infernalis was more than 3 feet tall and weighed about 160 pounds, which is about 2 feet shorter and 400 pounds lighter than Anzu. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

Atkins-Weltman had never thought he would discover and name a new species while he was studying. "It took me at least maybe two or three days to really wrap my head around that because it was just so serendipitous," said Atkins-Weltman. He is studying anatomy and vertebrate paleontology. "It started out not with a eureka, but a 'hmm, that's odd'," he shared.


"So, before this paper, you might have thought there was a decline in this group of dinosaurs and their diversity, but it turns out not at all. They were remaining quite stable and they were doing quite fine," shared Atkins-Weltman. "This group seemed to have maintained stability and diversity whereas, other groups suffered. My guess is they were omnivores and very versatile, switching food sources to survive," he told Live Science.


His interest in dinosaurs began in his childhood. He would apparently stop crying when someone showed him pictures of dinosaurs or reptiles. While watching the "Jurassic Park" film, Atkins-Weltman always rooted for the dinosaurs. The researcher has now donated the fossils to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, though he bought them. He doesn't agree with the commercialization of fossils and holding them in private collections.


He had ordered what he thought was an Anzu's femur, tibia and metatarsal bones for $5,000 from a fossil seller. Reportedly, these bones were found in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Anzu fossils were earlier found there in the 2010s. Scientists had nicknamed the species "chicken from hell" because it was first found in the rocks of the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota and partially also because of the way it looked.

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Atkins-Weltman is now studying the Tyrannosaurus rex. He is excited about his recent achievement, which has been published in the journal PLOS One. But he does feel the pressure to produce something better, eventually. "You've set up this bar that you know everybody's going to hold everything else you do up to," Atkins-Weltman said.

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