A team of paleontologists led by experts from the University of Edinburgh has discovered a new species of toothless, two-fingered dinosaur.
Multiple complete skeletons of the feathered species – named Oxoco Everson – have been found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, giving a crucial clue to evolution.
Dinosaurs, which were omnivorous and grew to be about two-meters long, thrived more than 68 million years ago.
They had two functional digits at the end of each rod and have a huge toothless beak like a modern parrot.
According to the team, the fossils provide the first evidence of numerical damage in a three-fingered dinosaur family known as oviraptors.
The new species had one finger less than its closest relatives, indicating adaptability that enabled the animals to spread during the late Cretaceous period, the researchers said.
The team claimed that they could develop adaptations indicating that the group could make changes to their diet and lifestyle, enabling them to diversify and multiply.
Dr Gregory Funsten of the University of Edinburgh said: “Oxco Everson is interesting because the skeletons are so full and the way they relax together shows that the teenagers were moving around in groups.
“But more importantly, his two-fingered hand tells us to look at the way the hand and the forearm changed during the evolution of the ovivarters, which had not been studied before.
“This has led to some unexpected trends, which are a key part of the puzzle of why the Oviedos were so diverse before killing the dinosaurs before they became extinct.”
According to the researchers, Oviraptors are slowly losing the third finger of their evolutionary history as they first shrink in size and then disappear altogether.
As the hands and arms of the animals changed, they migrated to new geographical areas, especially now in North America and the Gobi Desert.
Like the prehistoric species, the Oxco habitat looked very social as adolescents – resting together with the remains of four young dinosaurs.
The study, published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, was funded by the Royal Society and the Natural Sciences and the Engineering Council of Canada.
It also involved researchers from the University of Alberta and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Canada, the University of Hokkaido in Japan, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.
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