It couldn’t fly, but Halszkaraptor escuilliei could both walk and swim. Credit: Lukas Panzarin

Palaeontology

A dinosaur with an unusual skill set

Fossil hints that creature swam with the help of stubby ‘arms’.

A newly identified dinosaur had flipper-like forelimbs for swimming and a swan-like neck for grabbing dinner.

Andrea Cau at the Giovanni Capellini Geological and Palaeontological Museum in Bologna, Italy, and his colleagues say that the fossil represents a new species, Halszkaraptor escuilliei. It dates to about 71 million to 75 million years ago and belongs to the family of dinosaurs that gave rise to modern birds. On land, it walked erect on two legs. The team reports that the creature could also manoeuvre itself through the water with its forelimbs, and had an elongated neck that helped it to snap up fish. Only one other dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus has been described as water-going.

The species is the first known dinosaur that might have swum using its forearms. Its bizarre body shape, which is unlike that of anything else in its family, shows just how much dinosaur diversity may remain to be discovered, the authors say.