Pretty Goofy’: Weird Dinosaur Was Cross Between Barney and Jar Jar Binks

Nearly 50 years ago, scientists found bones of two large, powerful dinosaur arms in Mongolia and figured they had discovered a fearsome critter with killer claws. Now scientists have found the rest of the dinosaur and have new descriptions for it: goofy and weird. The beast probably lumbered along on two legs like a cross between TV dinosaur Barney and Jar Jar Binks of "Star Wars" fame. It was 16 feet tall and 36 feet long, weighing 7 tons, with a duckbill on its head and a hump-like sail on its back. It had killer claws, tufts of feathers here and there, and no teeth. And if that's not enough, it ate like a giant vacuum cleaner. That's Deinocheirus mirificus (DY'-noh'-KY-ruhs mur-IHF'-ee-kuhs), which means "terrible hands that look peculiar." It is newly reimagined after a full skeleton was found in Mongolia and described in a paper released Wednesday (Oct. 22) by the journal Nature.

Image: Deinocheirus mirificus, the largest known member of a group of ostrich-like dinosaurs
This undated handout image provided by Michael Skrepnick, Dinosaurs in Art, Nature Publishing Group, shows a Deinocheirus mirificus, the largest known member of a group of bird-like dinosaurs. Michael Skrepnick / via AP

Some 70 million years old, it's an ancestral relative of the modern ostrich and belongs to the dinosaur family often called ostrich dinosaurs. "Deinocheirus turned out to be one the weirdest dinosaurs beyond our imagination," study lead author Yuong-Nam Lee, director of the Geological Museum in Daejeon, South Korea, said in an email. When scientists in 1965 found the first forearm bones — nearly 8 feet long — many of them envisioned "a creature that would strike terror in people," said University of Maryland dinosaur expert Thomas Holtz Jr, who wasn't part of the study. "Now it's a creature that would strike bemusement, amazement." And yes, he said, "it's pretty goofy."

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— The Associated Press