A three feet tall dinosaur was discovered Saturday at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah and stuns researchers with its switchblade claw.
The new fossil suggests the dinosaurs may have exposed their sharp knife-like talons in defense against predators or to attack prey. The dinosaur found on Saturday had an injury to the foot and researchers assume they know why.
“This raptor dinosaur specimen is special because it shows evidence of having broken the toe on the foot that bears an enlarged talon, an injury we are interpreting as sustained during combat with other members of the species or in hunting prey,” Lindsay Zanno, vertebrate paleontologist, told Discovery News.
The new dinosaur, Talos sampsoni is a member of a rare group of feathered, bird-like raptor dinosaurs whose development in North America has been a continuous source of scientific debate, largely for lack of decent fossil material. Talos represents the first definitive bird-like dinosaur to be named from the Late Cretaceous period of North America in over 75 years.
Zanno explained, “Finding a decent specimen of this type of dinosaur in North America is like a lighting strike, it’s a random event of thrilling proportions.” When the team first began studying the Talos specimen, they noticed uncommon features on the second digit of the left foot, initially thinking because it was a new species the facts were unrelated.
The raptor dinosaurs all have rather large, half-moon claws on the second toes of each foot, which they held off the ground in resemblances to folded switchblades.
Once Zanno and researchers found the unusual feature most likely came from an injury, she knew the Talos had a background story. Evidence of injury can shed light on how a body part was used, the researchers explained. An injury to the foot of a raptor dinosaur produces new details about the potential function of its toes and claws.
The Talos estimates to have reached about six feet long and weighing 80 pounds, the recently discovered fossil adds to the list of at least 15 new dinosaur species have been discovered in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument during the last decade.
The bones of Talos sampsoni will be on display in the Past Worlds Observatory at the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City.