If it wasn't for road maintenance in Argentina, the world might never have known about a 26-foot-long, 168-million-year-old lizard king preserved in remarkable detail under the asphalt of Patagonia. So the paleontologists who discovered the massive monster -- a new cousin to the iconic allosaurus, tyrannosaurus and velociraptor -- paid tribute by naming the new genus Asfaltovenator vialidadi.
Describing the dino's remains in the online journal Scientific Reports on Wednesday, paleontologists Oliver Rauhust and Diego Pol said the find is the most complete dinosaur skeleton yet discovered from the early phase of the Middle Jurassic.
"The fossil displays a very unusual combination of skeletal characters, which is difficult to reconcile with the currently accepted picture of the relationships between the three large groups that comprise the tetanurans -- Megalosauria, Allosauria and Coelurosauria," Rauhut said in a statement.
Asfaltovenator's hybrid mix of traits prompted the duo to dig deeper into the other dinosaurs, whose varieties were rapidly expanding during the Middle Jurassic period. Rauhut said he believes the explosive evolution of this newly discovered dino's group is linked to a mass extinction episode that happened about 180 million years ago. The prior extinction likely opened up new ecological niches for this dino and its megapredator cousins, the paleontologists said.
Read more: T. rex had a skull so hard even T. rex couldn't break it, say scientists