Washington -US scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur. Its fossils offer further clues to how the dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago.

Anzu wyliei is a strange, bird-like creature that has a bony crest on top of a beaky head and a long tail like a lizard. The animal was identified from the partial remains of three skeletons collected in North and South Dakota. It is reported in PLoS ONE journal. “We had inklings that there might be such a creature out there, but now with these bones we have 80% of the skeleton and can really look in detail at the structure of this animal and make inferences about its biology,” says Hans Sues, curator of vertebrate palaeontology in the department of palaeobiology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

“Anzu is really bizarre, even by dinosaur standards. “The skull has this extraordinarily tall and thin crest with a snout and a huge beak with sharp edges and a strange sliding jaw joint,” that could be used to cut up vegetation and meat, he says. The size of a small car, the dinosaur also had claws and feathers on its upper arms. It belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as Oviraptorosauria. Most evidence of their existence comes from fossils discovered in Central and East Asia.

The Anzu bones are the first detailed evidence that oviraptorosaurs also lived in North America.

The specimens were found in a geological formation known as Hell Creek, which has been extensively explored and is the source of many dinosaur fossils discovered in North America.  Scientists have nicknamed it “the chicken from Hell” because of its appearance and where it was found.

The site is important because it was formed in the last two million years of the Cretaceous Period, just before dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid strike. Many researchers have argued that the dinosaurs were already in decline because of climate change.

But according to Dr Sues and his team, the discovery of Anzu offers further proof that many species were still evolving and dinosaur communities were diverse and flourishing.

“This is consistent with the idea that a mass extinction was caused by the great asteroid impact 66 million years ago. It’s clear that dinosaurs were still quite diverse until the very end,” says Dr Sues.