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New species of bird-like dinosaur discovered in Canada

A colourful bird-like dinosaur that was almost as big as a man has been identified by scientists.

The blue and beige feathered creature stalked the Canadian 'badlands' of Alberta 71 million years ago.

Its remains had been dug up over the years in what is now Red Deer River Valley, a famous dinosaur graveyard, but it's only now that a true picture of it has emerged. 

The study suggests that more detailed studies of fragmentary fossils may reveal more, currently unrecognised, species.

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A colourful bird-like dinosaur that was almost as big as a man has been identified by scientists. The blue and beige feathered creature stalked the Canadian 'badlands' of Alberta 71 million years ago (artist's impression) 

A colourful bird-like dinosaur that was almost as big as a man has been identified by scientists. The blue and beige feathered creature stalked the Canadian 'badlands' of Alberta 71 million years ago (artist's impression) 

STUDY FINDINGS 

A colourful bird-like dinosaur that was almost as big as a man has been identified by scientists in Canada.

The blue and beige feathered creature stalked the Canadian 'badlands' of Alberta 71 million years ago.

Its remains had been dug up over the years in what is now Red Deer River Valley, a famous dinosaur graveyard, but it's only now that a true picture of it has emerged. 

Palaeontologists initially thought the bones of Albertavenator curriei belonged to its close relative Troodon, which lived around five million years earlier.

The identification of a new species of troodontid in the Late Cretaceous of North America suggests the diversity of small dinosaurs towards the end of their existence is likely underestimated.

This is because of the difficulty of identifying species from fragmentary fossils. 

Palaeontologists initially thought the bones of Albertavenator curriei belonged to its close relative Troodon, which lived around five million years earlier.

Both dinosaurs walked on two legs, were covered in feathers and were about the size of a person.

Troodon is believed to be the smartest dinosaur that ever lived. 

It had a large brain - proportionally bigger than those found in living reptiles.

So it may have been as intelligent as modern birds which are more similar in brain size.

Now comparisons of bones forming the top of the head reveal Albertavenator had a distinctively shorter and more robust skull than Troodon, its famously brainy relative.

Project leader Dr David Evans, senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, said: 'The delicate bones of these small feathered dinosaurs are very rare.

'We were lucky to have a critical piece of the skull that allowed us to distinguish Albertaventaor as a new species.'

'We hope to find a more complete skeleton of Albertavenator in the future as this would tell us so much more about this fascinating animal.' 

Identifying new species from fragmentary fossils is a challenge. 

Complicating matters were the hundreds of isolated teeth discovered in Alberta and previously attributed to Troodon.

Albertavenator curriei, meaning 'Currie's Alberta hunter', has been named in honour of renowned Canadian palaeontologist Dr Philip J Currie. The species was likely to have ranged between three and five feet in height (artist's impression)

Albertavenator curriei, meaning 'Currie's Alberta hunter', has been named in honour of renowned Canadian palaeontologist Dr Philip J Currie. The species was likely to have ranged between three and five feet in height (artist's impression)

The remains had been dug up over the years in what is now Red Deer River Valley, a famous dinosaur graveyard, but it's only now that a true picture of it has emerged

The remains had been dug up over the years in what is now Red Deer River Valley, a famous dinosaur graveyard, but it's only now that a true picture of it has emerged

Teeth from a jaw that likely belongs to Albertavenator appears very similar to the those of Troodon, making them unusable for distinguishing between the species.

Co-author Derek Larson, assistant curator of the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum in Wembley, Alberta, said: 'This discovery really highlights the importance of finding and examining skeletal material from these rare dinosaurs.' 

The identification of a new species of troodontid in the Late Cretaceous of North

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