News / Ottawa

Carleton student discovers new ostrich-like dinosaur

After 80 years of misclassification, a Carleton student has discovered a 1930s Albertan skeleton was actually a new species all along.

The ostrich-like Rativates Evadens lived in the Late Cretaceous period, about 10 million years before dinosaurs went extinct.

Courtesy Andrey Atuchin

The ostrich-like Rativates Evadens lived in the Late Cretaceous period, about 10 million years before dinosaurs went extinct.

A Canadian dinosaur’s 80-year identity crisis is over after a Carleton PhD student discovered a 1930s skeleton wasn’t what it seemed.

Brad McFeeters was studying the ostrich-like partial skeleton, collected near Alberta’s Dinosaur Park in 1934, which was assumed to be a Struthiomimus Altus.

But on closer inspection, McFeeters noticed some clear differences in the bone structures of the animal’s feet, pelvis, jawbone and tail that suggested he was dealing with a new species altogether.

“I don’t know if it would really influence what it looks like alive,” said McFeeters. “But collectively it adds up to being a new dinosaur.”

He has now described the new Rativates Evadens in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. He said the new species would be a very close cousin of its 80-year doppelganger.

It would have resembled a modern ostrich, but with long, fingered arms and a long tail. At five feet tall, it would have weighed about 200 pounds.  

McFeeters said the discovery adds another layer to the ostrich-like species group, which is “understudied” and is much less diverse than other groups, with only two previously identified individuals.

“To have only two ostrich dinosaurs, it seemed like it was something that could be wrong,” McFeeters said. “This is a good first step in kind of untangling some of the diversity.”