After buying fossils online for a class project, a graduate student ended up discovering a new species of dinosaur.
The dinosaur was named “Pharaoh’s dawn chicken from hell,” and it lived during the late Cretaceous period, which occurred around 100 million to 66 million years ago.
In 2020, Kyle Atkins-Weltman, a student at Oklahoma State University, purchased four fossils for $5,000 for one of his first research projects. The fossils were supposed to be the hind legs from a juvenile Anzu wyliei, nicknamed the “chicken from hell.” The species was found in 2014.
But when Atkins-Weltman had the fossils analyzed, he learned that they were not only of an entirely different species, but they were also ones that had never been identified before. He gave the new species the scientific name of Eoneophron infernalis. The first part of the name, Eoneophron, combines the Greek words “eos” and “Neophron.”
The first word means “dawn,” in reference to how ancient the species is, while “Neophron” is what Egyptian vultures are called.
The birds of prey were also known as “pharaoh’s chicken.” The latter part of the name is borrowed from the species A. wyliei. At the same time, it alludes to his pet Nile monitor lizard named Pharaoh, who recently passed away.
“He was an important part of my life,” said Atkins-Weltman about his lizard. “He was an emotional support animal, and he helped me get through the most difficult parts of being a scientist and dealing with all the stress and everything that comes with it.”
The new species belonged to a section of a region in South Dakota called the Hell Creek Formation. The second part of the species name, “infernalis,” is derived from the Latin word for “hell,” acknowledging the area the dinosaurs came from.
The location is famous for producing many notable finds over the years, including Tyrannosaurus rex specimens and other plant and mammal discoveries.