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‘Chicken from hell’ dinosaur gets a proper name

Carnegie Museum of Natural History via Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s called the chicken from hell: a birdlike dinosaur some 7 feet tall that weighed around 500 pounds when it roamed western North America on its long, slender hind legs.

The beast got its nickname long ago at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where a replica of its skeleton has been on display for a decade.

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But the species has had no scientific name. Until now.

The creature was formally introduced to the scientific community Wednesday as scientists published a description and analysis of its anatomy, and finally bestowed a name: Anzu wyliei. The moniker comes from a mythological feathered demon plus the name of a Carnegie Museum trustee’s grandson.

Anzu had a toothless beak and a crest on its skull like a rooster’s comb,long arms, and sharp claws. It apparently also had feathers on much of its body.

The analysis, in the journal PLoS One, concludes that Anzu belongs to a group of dinosaurs that scientists knew little about. In contrast, the three specimens of Anzu from North and South Dakota that were included in the analysis collectively supply a nearly complete skeleton, said Matthew Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum and lead author of the new paper.

The dinosaur lived some 66 million to 68 million years ago in a hot and humid landscape, he said. It ate plants and maybe small animals when it wasn’t fleeing from a much bigger T. rex, he said.

When it came to naming the creature, why not go with a spiffed-up version of ‘‘chicken from hell?’’ That was the first choice, Lamanna said. But the phrase isn’t nearly as catchy in Latin or Greek.

So ‘‘I thought that if I couldn’t come up with a name that literally meant ‘chicken from hell,’ I could at least name it ‘feathered demon.’ ”

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