A 'Mud Dragon' fossil, revealed when workmen building a high school in southern China blasted the ground with dynamite, shows dinosaurs thrived on the eve of their destruction. Jim Drury reports.
Nicknamed Mud Dragon, this dinosaur lived 66 million years ago. But if Chinese builders hadn't dynamited bedrock to build a school it wouldn't have come to light. Palaeontologist Steve Brusatte... SOUNDBITE (English) PALAEONTOLOGIST STEVE BRUSATTE, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "We call the new dinosaur Tongtianlong. That's the formal scientific name and that comes from a few different Chinese words that mean 'muddy dragon the road to heaven', which I think is a beautiful name.....and that refers to the fact that it looks like this dinosaur died because it got stuck in the mud." Two-metres-long, it was an oviraptorosaur, an ancestor of birds. SOUNDBITE (English) PALAEONTOLOGIST STEVE BRUSATTE, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "It was covered in feathers, just like a bird. It had wings, just like a bird, although it couldn't fly. It was still too big to fly, it probably used its wings for display purposes, for attracting a mate and intimidating its rivals, that sort of thing. It had a beak, it didn't have any teeth, so this was a dinosaur that didn't eat meat like a T. Rex and it didn't eat a lot of plants like a brontosaurus." Brusatte says China's construction boom is leading to many dinosaur finds... ...and mass spectrometry, like that used in Newcastle University's cutting edge microscopic suite, is allowing experts to further our understanding. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR PETER CUMPSON, NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "It's imaging mass spectrometry that really is making the difference because then we can have a look at this surface and tell you which molecules were where. So on this fossilised feather there was a set of molecules here and here and here, which are black or white and that's what led to the stripes in this feather by comparison with species which survive." The discovery of six oviraptorosaur species in the region suggests the group was diversifying in the final years of the dinosaurs' reign on Earth.