Fearsome 'Lightning Claw' Dinosaur Discovered in Australia
An extraordinary meat-eating dinosaur has been discovered Down Under. The prehistoric beast was certainly no match for T. rex, but with its huge hook-like claws it must have been pretty ferocious.
Opal miners discovered the fossilized bones of the dinosaur -- dubbed "Lightning Claw" -- in the outback town of Lightning Ridge in New South Wales in 2005, The Guardian reported. Now scientists who examined the fossils say they represent a previously unknown species -- the largest carnivorous dinosaur yet found in Australia.
"It was crystal clear that we were looking at something new and very different from all fossils previously collected in the area," Dr. Federico Fanti, paleontologist at the University of Bologna in Italy and a co-author of a paper describing the dinosaur, told The Huffington Post in an email.
"The fossils are made of opal, and this is absolutely stunning and unique."
The paper was published online in the journal Gondwana Research on Sept. 5.
The fossils, which date back some 110 million years, consist of a foot bone, parts of a hip, ribs, forearm and a claw. They indicate a dinosaur about 22 feet long -- roughly half as long as T. rex -- with 10-inch claws that the animal might have used like grappling hooks to catch its prey.
The researchers concluded that "Lightning Claw" was likely a megaraptorid -- a group of theropod dinosaurs that had huge hand claws.
"When I compared it to other Australian and South American dinosaurs, it was clear it was a megaraptorid which is relatively rare group of dinosaurs, mostly known from Argentina," Dr. Phil Bell, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia and the paper's lead author, said in a written statement. "It changes the popular notion that Australian dinosaurs came from ancestors derived from Africa and South America -- instead the 'Lightning Claw' appears to be the ancestor of all megaraptorids, meaning this group appeared first in Australia."