Chinese construction workers excavating bedrock recently made an explosive discovery when they inadvertently unearthed an unusual new species of feathered dinosaur. The animal lived about 66 to 72 million years ago, right before a giant impact wiped out large dinosaurs in a catastrophic mass extinction. Scientists named the new species Tongtianlong limosus, or “muddy dragon on the road to heaven”—a prosaic way to describe its final moments before death, mired in mud with its limbs and head outstretched, struggling to escape.
“This new dinosaur is one of the most beautiful, but saddest, fossils I’ve ever seen,” Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, says in a press statement.
“But we’re lucky that the mud dragon got stuck in the muck, because its skeleton is one of the best examples of a dinosaur that was flourishing during those final few million years before the asteroid came down and changed the world in an instant.”