For 180 million years, dinosaurs reigned over every corner of the Earth’s surface. During this period of natural history, known as the Mesozoic era, these prehistoric titans evolved to fit nearly every habitat and niche under the sun. The results were some of the most amazing creatures to ever walk the Earth, with many unique shapes and body types that would never be seen again. While there are plenty of wrong things people used to think about the dinosaurs - like most of them are vicious monsters - not all of these animals are defined by their teeth and claws. Some are cute, others are impressive, and a few are just downright weird.
The fossil record is full of scary extinct dinosaurs, with some of the crazy dinosaurs sporting some of the most bizarre adaptations thanks to evolution. There are dinosaurs that managed to grow stubbier arms than the T. rex, while at least one looked like a buck-toothed chicken. Their are bird-like dinosaurs who rock primitive feathers and others that are covered in spines, scales, and armor. These bizarre-looking dinosaurs you won't believe are real shining examples of just how strange evolution can be and how dinosaurs truly are some of the most interesting animals to ever exist.
Linhenykus monodactylus is a small dinosaur in a group of species known as alvarezsaurs, whose membership consists of bipedal dinosaurs with absurdly tiny arms. This particularly species inhabited the area which would become Mongolia between 84 and 75 million years ago, and it is unique among the alvarezsaurs. Unlike its close relatives, who all have multiple fingers, linhenykus only has the one, heavily-clawed finger. This makes linhenykus the only known dinosaur to possesses a single finger per arm, a trait which is unusual even to this day.
It is unclear exactly why linhenykus and its relatives had such tiny arms, but there is one theory floating around in the paleontological community. It is hypothesized linhenykus used their thick claws to dig at ants hills and termite mounds to break in and feast on the small insects hiding inside. These creatures were very small, able to fit in the palm of your hand, and could have subsisted on an insectivorous diet.
Halszkaraptor's skeleton appeared so unusual that at first, experts didn't even think it was real. Andrea Cau, an investigator from the University of Bologna, explains:
"It was so strange that we suspected that it might have been a chimera – a mix of different skeletons glued together. It wouldn’t be the first time."
But once the chunk of rock containing the fossil was scanned, the scientists determined that this creature was for real. It seems to have been amphibious, though its features look more like those of a duck or a swan than a reptile. It presumably ate fish.
Possibly one of the most absurd creatures to ever walk the Earth, incisivosaurus is a buck-toothed dinosaur that lived 128 million years ago. This bird-like dinosaur is unique for it’s bizarre teeth, a rare quality in animals outside of mammals. Most reptiles have one type of tooth, but incisivosaurus had both smaller, sharper teeth, as well as their distinctive front teeth. Some scientists believe they were either herbivorous or omnivorous, another trait that makes them distinct.
Amazingly, their strange physiology helped reveal some major secrets about another type of dinosaur, the oviraptor. It was believed oviraptors may have been birds who had simply lost their ability to fly, but it was later discovered incisivosaurus had actually been an early ancestor to the oviraptors, disproving the theory they came from birds.
Perhaps one of the most unusual dinosaurs of all, Deinocheirus mirificus was at the heart of a puzzle in the scientific community since 1965. At first, the only fossils recovered from this dinosaur were a pair of massive arms, which measured almost eight feet in length. The arms were originally found in the Gobi desert, but subsequent expeditions to find the rest of its body were fruitless. That is, until two other skeletons were discovered in 2006 and 2009.
At first, researchers were dismayed to hear poachers had stolen and sold off many parts of the skeletons, including a skull. By a stroke of miraculous luck a man named Pascal Godefroit, a representative of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, remembered seeing some of the stolen fossils and was able to point the investigation in the right direction. They discovered that the fossils had been sold to private collectors in Japan and Germany, and were finally able to put an end to a 50 year mystery.
What scientists learned from the unification of the skeleton was even more shocking than the story of the discovery itself, as Deinocheirus mirificus proved to be one of the most unique dinosaurs in the fossil record. It had a toothless, duck-like bill used to skim water for food, as well as two powerful arms for gathering food and stripping branches from trees. It grew to the size of a tyrannosaurus, and had a massive hump on its back to help its legs support its large body. About 1,400 rocks were found in the belly of one specimen, leading researchers to believe they used them to grind up food in their stomachs, similar to many modern birds.