Raul Martin/(inset) Santiago Torralba/Nature 2010

ScienceShot: Hunchback Dinosaur Prowled the Plains of Spain

Quasimodo, call your lawyer. Scientists have found the fossilized remains of a carnivorous dinosaur they've nicknamed the Hunchback of Las Hoyas because of a humplike feature on its spine. The creature, whose formal name is Concavenator corcovatus, ran about 6 meters from snout to tail. It represents the most complete fossil ever found of the group of theropod (three-toed) dinosaurs called carcharodontosaurs, the largest of which could have dispatched even a Tyrannosaurus rex. The function of the humplike feature remains unknown, but reporting online today in Nature, the scientists note that small bumps on the beast's forearms could be the equivalent of quill knobs on modern birds, which serve as anchors to the ligaments that hold the flight feathers. Concavenator wasn't feathered, they say, but the knobs could represent an evolutionary step in that direction.

This article has been corrected. It originally stated that the dinosaur's humplike feature could have been an evolutionary step towards flight. Small bumps on the dino's forearms were the potential flight precursors.

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Posted in Paleontology