'Chicken From Hell' With Huge Hooked Claws Could Be Among Dinosaurs Found in Montana

Researchers have uncovered the remains of four dinosaurs in northeastern Montana, including one that could potentially represent a "Chicken from Hell" or even a new species.

Paleontologists from the University of Washington (UW) and its Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture dug up the fossils this summer.

The fossils include the hip bones of an ostrich-sized theropod—a term encompassing a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and raptors—the hips and legs of a duck-billed dinosaur; the skull and other bones from a Triceratops; and the pelvis, toe claw and limbs from another theropod.

The researchers said that the latter set of theropod remains could belong to the rare, feathered dinosaur Anzu wyliei.

The dinosaur, nicknamed the "Chicken from Hell," was only recently discovered—scientists first described it in 2014.

A. wyliei measured roughly 11 feet in length and five feet tall at the hip, according to the Smithsonian Museum. It likely resembled a large flightless bird, such as an emu or an ostrich, aside from its long tail.

It had a crested skull, a toothless beak, and arms featuring large, hooked claws that were sharp enough to use for hunting prey or defending against attackers.

There remains also the possibility that the mysterious set of theropod fossils found in Montana represent a new species altogether.

Three of the four dinosaurs were found close to each other on land that is currently being leased to a rancher by the Bureau of Land Management.

All of the fossils were found in a a geological formation known as "Hell Creek," which dates back to the latest part of the Cretaceous Period—around 66 to 68 million years ago.

This period ended with a mass extinction event during which most dinosaurs (apart from birds) were wiped out, alongside three quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth.

The general consensus is that this mass extinction event resulted primarily from the impact of a massive comet or asteroid, which wreaked havoc with Earth's climate and environment.

In the period following the extinction event, the Earth witnessed a large diversification in mammal species, in the absence of dinosaurs.

"Each fossil that we collect helps us sharpen our views of the last dinosaur-dominated ecosystems and the first mammal-dominated ecosystems," Gregory Wilson Mantilla, a UW paleontologist, at the Burke Museum said in a statement. "With these, we can better understand the processes involved in the loss and origination of biodiversity and the fragility, collapse and assembly of ecosystems."

All of the fossils will be taken to the Burke Museum where the public will be able to watch paleontologists remove them from the rock they were found in.

Illustration of Anzu wyliei
An artist's illustration shows a depiction of what Anzu wyliei may have looked like. A set of dinosaur fossils found in Montana may represent A. wyliei, or potentially a new species. Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History via Getty Images