(Courtesy of Bob Walters) (Courtesy of Bob Walters)

Paleontologists have acquired the distressing hobby of emerging to announce that dinosaurs are less cool than we thought they were. They weren’t Terrible Lizards. They were only Terrible Lizards in the sense that they were failures at being lizards. They were Terrible Big Birds. And, though Big Bird can be terrifying — to me, the most terrifying part is that, canonically, Big Bird was supposed to be a four year old — he’s no T. Rex.

Well, paleontologists have done something right for once. Instead of emerging with the news that a dinosaur we thought was menacing and horrible, if a little short in the arm, was actually covered in a thick coat of pink feathers, they have found something to populate our nightmares in exactly the way a pair of rabbits would a small island.

They have discovered this horrible thing. A beak, no teeth, a crest, spindly bird-legs. This is a diabolical chicken. In fact, that is its unofficial nickname: the Chicken from Hell.

I want one. Not a live one. That would be horrible. But I would like to try some drumsticks from Hell or split some of the dark meat from the Chicken of the Third Circle of Hell with someone who preferred White Meat from the Chicken of the Eighth Circle.

Its official name is the Anzu wyliei — from a mythical creature and a museum patron’s grandson (See! You don’t need to find one to have it named for you! Grandpa can handle it!). But that’s not the image that sticks. This is one of those creatures that squats on the edge of old-fashioned maps, next to the Here There Be Monsters in neat scrollwork letters.

Ah, science. Supplying us with terrifying monster creatures since the days of Aristotle.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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