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Field researcher: Newly discovered dinosaur was ‘fierce predator’

Fleshed-out reconstructiTalos sampsoni new troodontid dinosaur from Upper Cretaceous Kaiparowits FormatiGrStaircase-Escalante National Monument southern Utah.  Artwork by Jorge Gonzales.

Fleshed-out reconstruction of Talos sampsoni, new troodontid dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Kaiparowits Formation, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. Artwork by Jorge Gonzales. Archived on Friday, September 16, 2011. | Image copyright Utah Museum of Natural History. Free for use.

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:18AM

And you thought your feet were scary.

A bird-like dinosaur equipped with terrifying talons lived more than 76 million years ago in what is now southern Utah, a team of scientists, including a Field Museum researcher, has discovered.

“I think it’s fair to say it was a fierce predator,” said Lindsay Zanno, the Field researcher on the project who also works as an assistant anatomy professor at the University of Wisconsin — Parkside. “When you look at the enlarged talon on its foot it definitely adds a fear factor.”

The new dinosaur discovery — named Talos sampsoni — is part of a group of similar two-legged, sharp-toothed, predatory dinosaurs that roamed the western United States and Canada.

Talos sampsoni is the first new member of that group to be named in more than 75 years, the journal PLoS ONE reported Monday.

“It’s thrilling,” said Zanno. “These kinds of specimens are so incredibly rare, especially in North America.”

A graduate student hunting for turtle fossils found the new dinosaur in 2008 in southern Utah. After the fossil was extricated, it was taken to the Field where Zanno spent about a year researching it.

Zanno said the specimen was unique not only because it was largely complete but also because it had an injured talon.

The wounded toe received a CT scan in hopes of providing clues as to what the dinosaur was doing when it was hurt.

“We’ll never know the exact nature of the injury,” Zanno said. “We were able to determine it was either a fracture or a bite mark but also that this animal lived with this injury for a very long time.”

The rest of the foot and leg appear uninjured.

“Whatever the animal was doing, be it engaging in combat or hunting its prey, it injured that toe specifically,” she said.

Talos sampsoni, which weighed an estimated 83 pounds, was named after the mythological Greek figure Talos, a winged runner, and Dr. Scott Sampson, a research curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History also known as “Dr. Scott” on PBS’ “Dinosaur Train.”

The fossils will be displayed at the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City.

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