The researchers had originally thought they had
found the bones of a tyrannosaur - the group of dinosaurs to which
T rex belongs - due to their large size.
The team has established that the creature lived
about 70 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous period. According
to lines of arrested growth which were detected on its bones, it
died in its eleventh year of life.
It was a very surprising discovery, according to
the researchers. Not at all what they were expecting. One of them,
Xu Ling, a palaeontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in
Beijing and co-author on the Nature paper, thought it was the
largest feathered animal ever to have been discovered.
Gigantoraptor could probably run relatively
quickly on its long, powerful legs.
Dr Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher from the
Natural History Museum in London, UK, stated that it belonged to
a very unusual group of theropod dinosaurs, which are normally
meat-eaters. But this one didn't have any teeth, so what it ate
is still a very intriguing mystery.
The researchers showed that it had a very fast
growth rate, so it probably got so big by undergoing a very rapid
growth spurt, rather than growing for a very long period of time.
Dr Barrett added that the animal was not on the
direct evolutionary line leading to today's birds. However, because
of that very fact it supported the notion that the features associated
with modern birds probably arose more than once in their close