Scientists have named a new dinosaur species ‘thunder-thighs’, thanks to its huge thigh muscles.
The team from University College London recovered fossils from a quarry in Utah, US, which are fragmentary but enough to indicate that the creature must have possessed extremely powerful legs.
The fossilised bones of two specimens - an adult and a juvenile - have been dated to be about 110 million years old. Belonging to the family of sauropods, the creature could have given other animals a hefty kick, say its discoverers.
“It seems most likely to us that what this is about is being able to deliver a strong kick. If predators came after it, it would have been able to boot them out of the way,” the BBC quoted Dr Mike Taylor as saying.
The team has named its dinosaur Brontomerus mcintoshi - from Greek "bronto", which means "thunder"; and "meros", meaning "thigh".
The hip bone of the fossil, called ilium, is unusually large in comparison to that of similar dinosaurs. The wide, blade-shaped bone projects forward ahead of the hip socket, providing a proportionally massive area for the attachment of muscles.
"As you put the skeleton together, you can run muscles down from the hip-bone to join at the knee and that gives you a whopping thigh," Taylor said.
Other marks on the fossils give additional clues to the lifestyle the creature had and the environment it faced.
"The shoulder blade of Brontomerus has unusual bumps that probably mark the boundaries of muscle attachments, suggesting that Brontomerus had powerful forelimb muscles as well," explained Dr Matt Wedel, from the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California.
"It''s possible that Brontomerus mcintoshi was more athletic than most other sauropods. It is well established that far from being swamp-bound hippo-like animals, sauropods preferred drier, upland areas; so perhaps Brontomerus lived in rough, hilly terrain and the powerful leg muscles were a sort of ''dinosaur four-wheel drive''."
Because the site was commonly looted by fossil-hunters, the team hasn’t been able to recover the complete fossil.
"The fossil-hunters basically pillaged this site," Taylor said.
"They left behind broken remnants and smashed bits of bone; and in some cases they were using broken bones to hold down tarpaulins - that's really the most disgraceful aspect of it."