What could be worse than one sickle claw?

Balaur bondoc The dromaeosaurid dinosaur family — which includes such fan favourites as Velociraptor and Deinonychus — continues to offer surprises. Known for the sickle claw on one toe, dromaeosaurids have also been found to have feathers — and quite possibly venom. Now a new, strange dromaeosaur has been discovered in Romania. Balaur bondoc, a close relative of Velociraptor, had two sickle claws on each foot — it re-evolved its big toe: it has four toes on each foot, very unusual for a theropod dinosaur — and gave it a big claw too. Paleontologists were expecting some weird stuff out of late Cretaceous Europe, which was at the time a series of islands — and natural selection gets funny in insular populations. Not this, though. (Frankly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this turned out to be a case of prehistoric polydactyly — this is just too weird.)

Links: AMNH press release; NSF press release; AP; Discovery News; Grauniad; LiveScience; Not Exactly Rocket Science; Wired Science.