The pantheon of really strange dinosaurs just got a little stranger. Last week, the world got its first look at a creature that lived 66 million years ago.
Anzu wyliei is a dinosaur that looks like a very tall chicken, thanks to its long neck, beak, and crested head. It derives its name from a lion-headed bird demon in Mesopotamian mythology. If it were around today, no one would ever ask why this particular “chicken” wanted to cross the road.
Informally named the “giant chicken from hell” by the three paleontologists who published a paper about it last week in PLOS ONE, an online scientific journal, Anzu wyliei was 11 feet long, almost 6 feet tall, and weighed as much as 660 pounds. Despite its fearsome looks, it ate plants primarily and lacked the teeth needed to devour anything beyond small lizards.
One look at the fossilized skeleton, on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, and it is clear why it is considered a distant relative of modern birds. The creature made its appearance in places such as North Dakota just before the dinosaurs were wiped out by the impact of a meteor.
Before Anzu wyliei faced extinction with the rest of the dinosaurs, it was the frequent prey of its bad-tempered cousin, Tyrannosaurus rex. The most fearsome carnivore that ever lived most likely had a hankering for something that not only looked like chicken, but tasted like it, too.