Oksoko avarsan said to have grown up to two metres long with only two functional digits on each forearm

A toothless, feathered dinosaur that had just two fingers and resembled a giant parrot has been discovered by scientists.

Skeletons of the new species, which lived more than 68 million years ago, were unearthed in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert by a University of Edinburgh-led team.

The creatures – named Oksoko avarsan – grew to around two metres long with only two functional digits on each forearm.

They had a large, toothless beak similar to the type seen in parrots today and would feed on other animals as well as plants.

Researchers said the remarkably well-preserved fossils provided the first evidence of digit loss in the family of dinosaurs known as oviraptors.

Just like the T Rex, Oksoko avarsan had only two fingers – but all the other known members of its family had three.

The discovery that they could evolve forelimb adaptations suggests the group could alter their diets and lifestyles, and enabled them to diversify and multiply, the team said.

The fossil remains of four young dinosaurs were preserved resting together, pointed to the probability that Oksoko avarsan, like many other prehistoric species, were social as juveniles.

Dr Gregory Funston, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “Oksoko avarsan is interesting because the skeletons are very complete and the way they were preserved resting together shows that juveniles roamed together in groups.

“But more importantly, its two-fingered hand prompted us to look at the way the hand and forelimb changed throughout the evolution of oviraptors, which hadn’t been studied before.

A ceratopsian, meaning ‘horned face’, the triceratops lived between 68-66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton was found in Montana, USA and is on display at the Senckenberg museum in Germany

This large carnivore lived between 68-66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton, known as Tristan Otto, is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History and is one of the best preserved T-rex skeletons in the world. Of the 300 bones that make up the display, 170 are genuine fossils

This armoured herbivore lived between 155-145 million years ago in the late Jurassic period. This fossil was found in Bone Cabin Quarry in Wyoming, USA and is on display at the Senckenberg museum in Germany

A ceratopsian, meaning ‘horned face’, the triceratops lived between 68-66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton was found in Montana, USA and is on display at the Senckenberg museum in Germany

The most well-known of the pterosaurs lived between 150-148 million years ago in the late Jurassic period. The pictured skeleton is the largest ever found and is on display at the Altmuhltal Museum in Germany

This large carnivore lived between 68-66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton, known as Tristan Otto, is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History and is one of the best preserved T-rex skeletons in the world. Of the 300 bones that make up the display, 170 are genuine fossils

Known officially as a smilodon, the sabre-toothed tiger was a dominant predator between 2.5 million – 10,000 years ago in the Pleistocene era. The pictured skeleton is on display at the Senckenberg museum in Germany

The ‘fleet lizard’ lived between 154-151 million years ago in the late Jurassic period. This skeleton is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History

The American mastodon lived between around 5 million – 10,000 years ago. The pictured skeleton is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History

This prehistoric elephant lived between 15 and 5 million years ago. The Gomphotherium is remarkably similar to an elephant, with the most obvious difference being the lower tusk that protruded from the bottom jaw of this beast. This particular skeleton is on display at the Senckenberg museum in Germany

This armoured herbivore lived between 155-150 million years ago in the late Jurassic period. The pictured skeleton is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History

This large carnivore lived between 68-66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton, known as Tristan Otto, is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History and is one of the best preserved T-rex skeletons in the world. Of the 300 bones that make up the display, 170 are genuine fossils

This herbivore lived around 152 million years ago in the late Jurassic period. The pictured skeleton is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History

This herbivore lived around 152 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton is on display at the Natural History Museum in London

It’s name meaning ‘devil from hell’, the stygimoloch lived around 66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. The pictured skeleton is on display at the Berlin Museum of Natural History

This herbivore lived between 76-70 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. This particular skeleton – on display at the Senckenberg museum in Germany – was found in Alberta, Canada, which is also where the first Euoplocephalus fossil was found in 1897

“This revealed some unexpected trends that are a key piece in the puzzle of why oviraptors were so diverse before the extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

“Oviraptorosaurs were highly adaptable, which may have enabled them to diversify the end of the Cretaceous.”

Researchers studied the reduction in size, and eventual loss, of a third finger across the oviraptors’ evolutionary history.

The creatures’ arms and hands changed drastically in tandem with migrations to new geographic areas, specifically to what is now North America and the Gobi Desert.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, was funded by The Royal Society and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada.

It also involved researchers from the University of Alberta and Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum in Canada, Hokkaido University in Japan, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

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Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dinosaur-new-species-fossils-parrot-mongolia-oksoko-avarsan-b836020.html

Dinosaur, Species, Parrots, Gobi Desert, Paleontology

World news – GB – New species of toothless, feathered dinosaur that resembles a giant parrot discovered

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