For young Wes Linster, dinosaurs were more than a childhood fantasy. Ever since he was 10 months old, he had joined his parents and siblings on dinosaur hunts in Montana and Wyoming. In August 1994, when Wes was 14, he uncovered an almost perfectly preserved skeleton on a ranch near Choteau, Mont. Recalls Wes: "I bolted down the hill to get my mom because I knew I shouldn't be messing with it."
Good thing. Last week the young dino hunter's discovery was unveiled at the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History in Dania Beach, Fla. What he found was a new type of birdlike predator that lived 75 million years ago. "The skeleton is a jewel," says veteran Yale paleontologist John Ostrom. "It's virtually complete, undistorted, unbroken, pristine."
Because of the dino's size (only 3 ft. from its nose to the tip of its spindly tail), the Linsters called it Bambi, a name now formalized as Bambiraptor feinbergi, with a bow to the family that bought the specimen for the museum. But there is nothing deerlike about it. A kin of the ferocious velociraptors of Jurassic Park fame and more distantly of mighty T. rex, Bambi is a type of dromeosaur, small, upright-walking meat eaters that lived during the late Cretaceous period.
Like its discoverer, Bambi was a juvenile, about 75% of adult size. It had a large brain, a birdlike wishbone and sternum, and winglike arms. These were so long, says University of Kansas paleontologist David Burnham, that the dinosaur "would have tripped over them" if they had hung down as it almost (but not quite) flew across the prehistoric landscape.
--By Andrea Dorfman