Austroraptor – A new Dromaeosaur put on Display

A new species of Dromaeosaur, a group of meat-eating dinosaurs from the Cretaceous, the name means “running lizards”, an apt title for these swift and dangerous predators, has just gone on display in Argentina.

The southern hemisphere has provided a number of spectacular carnivorous dinosaur specimens and the newly named Austroraptor is right up with the best examples of dinosaur diversity at the end of the Cretaceous.

This particular dinosaur, whose fossils were found at Bajo de Santa Rosa, in Rio Negro province, has been put on display at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural History museum in Buenos Aries.  Estimated to have exceeded 5 metres in length and weighing in at approximately 750 kilogrammes, Austroraptor (scientific name Austroraptor cabazai), is one of the largest raptor like dinosaurs discovered to date.  Whether or not this dinosaur was a solitary hunter or a pack animal can only be speculated upon at this stage.  Current scientific thinking is leaning towards smaller Dromaeosaurs such as Velociraptor from Asia, being pack hunters, mobbing and bringing down much larger herbivorous dinosaurs.  If Austroraptor was a social, pack hunter, then a group of these large, agile dinosaurs would have been formidable and to be feared by even the largest Titanosaur.

A Reconstruction of the Skeleton of Austroraptor

Dinosaur meat-eater

Picture Credit: Bernardino Rivadavia Museum

Standing by the reconstruction is Argentinian palaeontologist Fernando Novas who led the research into this new species of meat-eating dinosaur.  The long snout and narrow jaws can clearly be seen in the photograph, these are typical features of a Dromaeosaur, contrasting with the bone-crushing power of Tyrannosaurs these jaws are more delicate but with their needle-like teeth they would have been ideal for stripping flesh from bone.

Described from only partial remains, the front elements of the skull and jaws, some vertebrae and bones from the left leg, including the femur, the size estimates have been based on the scaled-up measurements of better known Dromaeosaurs

The Austroraptor was found in rock formations dating to 70 million years ago, making it one of the last dinosaurs to walk in Patagonia before they became extinct at the very end of the Age of Reptiles

The plastic reproduction of the Austroraptor cabazai skeleton will be included in a showcase of Argentinian dinosaurs in a exhibition to visit Europe next year.

For Novas, the work on Austroraptor will help cement his reputation as one of the leading experts on South American meat-eaters.  In 1998, Dr Novas named and described Megaraptor believing this carnivore to be an example of a huge Dromaeosaur.  This diagnosis had been made based on the discovery of an enormous claw, that was believed to be the large pedal ungual, typical of the raptor group.  However, further analysis has revealed this claw to actually be a finger claw rather than a toe claw indicating a similarity to the Baryonychidae type dinosaurs.

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