Letter | Published:

Resolving the long-standing enigmas of a giant ornithomimosaur Deinocheirus mirificus

Nature volume 515, pages 257260 (13 November 2014) | Download Citation



The holotype of Deinocheirus mirificus was collected by the 1965 Polish–Mongolian Palaeontological Expedition at Altan Uul III in the southern Gobi of Mongolia1. Because the holotype consists mostly of giant forelimbs (2.4 m in length) with scapulocoracoids2, for almost 50 years Deinocheirus has remained one of the most mysterious dinosaurs. The mosaic of ornithomimosaur and non-ornithomimosaur characters in the holotype has made it difficult to resolve the phylogenetic status of Deinocheirus3,4. Here we describe two new specimens of Deinocheirus that were discovered in the Nemegt Formation of Altan Uul IV in 2006 and Bugiin Tsav in 2009. The Bugiin Tsav specimen (MPC-D 100/127) includes a left forelimb clearly identifiable as Deinocheirus and is 6% longer than the holotype. The Altan Uul IV specimen (MPC-D 100/128) is approximately 74% the size of MPC-D 100/127. Cladistic analysis indicates that Deinocheirus is the largest member of the Ornithomimosauria; however, it has many unique skeletal features unknown in other ornithomimosaurs, indicating that Deinocheirus was a heavily built, non-cursorial animal with an elongate snout, a deep jaw, tall neural spines, a pygostyle, a U-shaped furcula, an expanded pelvis for strong muscle attachments, a relatively short hind limb and broad-tipped pedal unguals. Ecomorphological features in the skull, more than a thousand gastroliths, and stomach contents (fish remains) suggest that Deinocheirus was a megaomnivore that lived in mesic environments.

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Information gained from Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska and Wojtec Skarzynski (who respectively found and excavated the holotype) allowed us to refind the original quarry at Altan Uul III. Thanks go to all members of Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Expedition (KID) in 2006 and 2009. The KID expedition was supported by a grant to Y.-N.L. from Hwaseong City, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. Research support was from Korea Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, Korea and Paleontological Center of Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Mongolia.

Author information


  1. Geological Museum, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, Daejeon 305-350, South Korea

    • Yuong-Nam Lee
    •  & Hang-Jae Lee
  2. Paleontological Center, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulaanbaatar 210-351, Mongolia

    • Rinchen Barsbold
    •  & Tsogtbaatar Chinzorig
  3. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada

    • Philip J. Currie
  4. Hokkaido University Museum, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan

    • Yoshitsugu Kobayashi
  5. Earth and History of Life, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium

    • Pascal Godefroit
  6. Eldonia, 9 Avenue des Portes Occitanes, 3800 Gannat, France

    • François Escuillié


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Y.-N.L. designed the project; Y.-N.L., R.B., P.J.C., Y.K. and H.-J.L. collected fossils and performed the research; P.J.C., P.G., F.E. and T.C. helped to repatriate the poached parts of the specimen so that they could be studied. H.-J.L. assembled figures; Y.-N.L. developed and wrote the manuscript with contributions from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yuong-Nam Lee.

Extended data

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text for the discovery of MPC-D 100/127 and 100/128, an additional description of Deinocheirus mirificus, Cladistic analysis and Supplementary References.

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    Supplementary Data

    This file contains Supplementary Data for measurements of MPC-D 100/127 and 100/128.

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