A newly discovered dinosaur species had no teeth, two fingers, and looked like a giant parrot. The species, which has been named Oksoko avarsan, lived more than 68 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period in Mongolia.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh unearthed the remains in the Gobi Desert. Several very well preserved complete skeletons revealed that the Oksoko avarsan was an omnivorous dinosaur with feathers that grew as long as 2 meters (6 and a half feet). It had a big beak with no teeth (similar to the beak of a modern parrot) and two fingers on each forearm. Interestingly, this is the first time that scientists have found an oviraptor with only two fingers as the rest of that family of dinosaurs all had three fingers.
The researchers carefully studied how evolution would have made their third finger smaller throughout time to the point in which they only had two. They were also able to determine that their forelimbs changed considerably over time in combination with when they migrated to new locations around the globe especially to the Gobi Desert as well as North America.
According to a statement, since this species was able to evolve with one less finger, it indicates that perhaps they could “alter their diets and lifestyles, and enabled them to diversify and multiply.”
Additionally, since the four juvenile skeletons were found laying together, it appeared as though they traveled around in groups. This is actually a very common occurrence with young animals as they often travel around and socialize in groups. (Pictures can be seen here.)
Paleontologist Gregory Funston, who is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh and 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. 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.”
Their study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science and can be read in full here.