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Scientists have discovered a dinosaur fossil — nicknamed the ‘Mud Dragon’ — that can help them better understand how the last-surviving dinosaurs were flourishing before their mass extinction. ‘Mud Dragon’, which meant ‘muddy dragon on the road to heaven’, was a bird-like species, discovered from a building site near Ganzhou in China.
According to the study published in journal Scientific Reports, the two-legged animal belonged to a family of feathered dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs. They were characterised by having short, toothless heads and sharp beaks.
“This new dinosaur is one of the most beautiful, but saddest, fossils. Its skeleton is one of the best examples of a dinosaur that was flourishing during those final few million years before the asteroid came down and changed the world in an instant,” said Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Fossil discoveries in recent decades suggest that this group of flightless animals were experiencing a numbers boost, diversifying into new species, during the 15 million years before the dinosaurs went extinct, the researchers noted.
Further, the study showed that it was probably one of the last groups of dinosaurs to diversify before the asteroid impact 66 million years ago, which killed off all of the non-bird dinosaurs.
The fossil remains was remarkably well preserved and almost intact, lying on its front with its wings and neck outstretched. According to scientists, the creature may have died in this pose after becoming mired in mud about 66-72 million years ago.