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Missing link dino unearthed in Utah

Feet for meat, veggie teeth

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A new species of feathered dinosaur, discovered in a mass dinosaur grave in Utah, could help scientists understand how some members of the raptor family became herbivorous. The dinosaur has been described as the missing link between small-bodied predators and the highly specialised, and very bizarre, plant-eating therizinosaurus.

The fossil remains are about 125m-years old, The Manchester Evening Post reports, and reveal that the dinosaur was about four-and-a half feet tall, and around 13 feet long.

The researchers speculate that the beast, named Falcarius utahensis, could have eaten meat and plants. The remains reveal both sharp claws, possibly for attacking prey, but also teeth typical of plant-eaters and space for a digestive system that could have handled leaves.

Dr Scott Sampson, from the Utah Museum of Natural History, told the Manchester newspaper: "We know that the first dinosaur was a small-bodied, lightly built, fleet-footed predator. Early on, two major groups of dinosaurs shifted to plant-eating, but we have virtually no record of those transitions.

"With Falcarius, we have actual fossil evidence of a major dietary shift, certainly the best example documented among dinosaurs. This little beast is a missing link between small-bodied predatory dinosaurs and the highly specialised and bizarre plant-eating therizinosaurs."

See an artist's impression of a therizinosaurus here. ®

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