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Dinosaur that looked like a giant ostrich unearthed

It could reach speeds of more than 40 mph.

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The team estimate Deinocheirus to have weighed over 1764 pounds (800kg). (Tsogtbaatar via SWNS)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

A bizarre dinosaur that looked like a giant ostrich has been unearthed in Mississippi.

It had a small head, long arms and strong legs - weighing almost a ton and standing 15 feet tall.

Named Deinocheirus mirificus, it had a similar running style to the large flightless birds.

It could reach speeds of more than 40 mph thanks to a long tail that boosted balance.

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Three-fingered claws enabled it to capture and grasp sizeable prey such as small mammals - which it swallowed whole.

The creature was identified from new fossils, including foot bones, that are around 85 million years old.

They provide a rare glimpse into a poorly known interval of dinosaur evolution in what is now North America.

Deinocheirus belonged to a group called ornithomimosaurs. It shows they grew to enormous sizes - much larger than previously believed.

A closeup of a female Masai Ostrich in a meadow in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Female Masai Ostrich in a meadow in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. (Light and Vision via Shutterstock)

Lead author Dr. Chinzorig Tsogtbaatar, of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, said: "Ostrich-like dinosaurs from Mississippi are among the world's largest."

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, sheds fresh light on dinosaur ecosystems during the Late Cretaceous.

At the time, North America was split by a seaway into two landmasses - Laramidia to the west and Appalachia to the east. But fossils are rare.

Ornithomimosaurs are also called 'bird-mimic' dinosaurs because of their likeness to our modern-day feathered friends.

Dr. Tsogtbaatar said: "By comparing the proportions of these fossils and the patterns of growth within the bones, the fossils likely represent two different species of ornithomimosaurs, one relatively small and one very large."

The team estimates Deinocheirus to have weighed over 800kg ( 1764 pounds) and was probably still growing when it died.

Portrait of the head of an Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
The head of an Ostrich/ struthio camelus. (Altrendo Images via Shutterstock)

Dr. Tsogtbaatar said: "This makes it among the largest ornithomimosaurs known.

"These fossils provide valuable insights into the otherwise poorly understood dinosaur ecosystems of Late Cretaceous eastern North America.

"They also shed light on ornithomimosaur evolution; giant body sizes and multiple species living side-by-side are recurring trends for these dinosaurs across North America and Asia.

"Further study will hopefully elucidate the reasons behind the success of these life strategies."

He added: “The co-existence of medium- and large-bodied ornithomimosaur taxa during the Late Cretaceous Santonian of North America provides key information on the diversity and distribution of ornithomimosaurs from the Appalachian landmass.

"It also suggests broader evidence of multiple cohabiting species of ornithomimosaurian dinosaurs in Late Cretaceous ecosystems of Laurasia."

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