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Concept: Deinonychus


From an initial dataset of 53 theropod species, the general relationship between theropod lower-leg length and body mass is identified. After factoring out this allometric relationship, theropod hindlimb proportions are assessed irrespective of body mass. Cursorial-limb-proportion (CLP) scores derived for each of the considered theropod taxa offer a measure of the extent to which a particular species deviates in favour of higher or lower running speeds. Within the same theropod species, these CLP scores are found to be consistent across multiple adult specimens and across disparate ontogenetic stages. Early theropods are found to have low CLP scores, while the coelurosaurian tyrannosauroids and compsognathids are found to have high CLP scores. Among deinonychosaurs, troodontids have consistently high CLP scores, while many dromaeosaur taxa, including Velociraptor and Deinonychus, have low CLP scores. This indicates that dromaeosaurs were not, overall, a particularly cursorily adapted group. Comparisons between the CLP scores of Tyrannosaurus and specimens referred to the controversial genus Nanotyrannus indicate a strong discrepancy in cursorial adaptations, which supports the legitimacy of Nanotyrannus and the previous suggestions of ecological partitioning between Nanotyrannus and the contemporaneous Tyrannosaurus.

Concepts: Biology, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae, Troodontidae, Deinonychus, Deinonychosauria, Tyrannosaurus


Dromaeosaurids from the Maastrichtian of North America have a poor fossil record and are known largely from isolated teeth, which have typically been referred to taxa based on more complete material from earlier Campanian strata. An almost complete maxilla with well-preserved dentition and an associated dentary from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana are used to establish a new dromaeosaurid taxon in the latest Maastrichtian, immediately prior to the end-Cretaceous extinction event. Acheroraptor temertyorum gen. et sp. nov. is differentiated from other dromaeosaurids on the basis of a hypertrophied postantral wall that projects posteriorly into the antorbital fenestra, a maxillary fenestra positioned low in the antorbital fossa and directly posterior to the promaxillary fenestra, and distinctive dentition with marked apicobasal ridges. The new material allows a dromaeosaurid from the Maastrichtian of North America to be placed within a phylogenetic framework for the first time. Phylogenetic analysis suggests Acheroraptor is a velociraptorine that is more closely related to Asian dromaeosaurids, including Tsaagan and Velociraptor, than it is to Dromaeosaurus, Saurornitholestes, or any other taxon from North America. As part of the Lancian Tyrannosaurus-Triceratops fauna, A. temertyorum is the latest occurring dromaeosaurid. Its relationships and occurrence suggest a complex historical biogeographic scenario that involved multiple, bi-directional faunal interchanges between Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous.

Concepts: Cretaceous, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae, Maastrichtian, Velociraptor, Deinonychus, Campanian


This research resulted from the determination that MCZ 8791 is a specimen of Deinonychus antirrhopus between one and two years of age and that the morphological variations within particular growth stages of this taxon have yet to be described. The primary goal of the research is to identify ontogenetic variations in this taxon. Histological analyses determined that the Deinonychus specimens AMNH 3015 and MOR 1178 were adults. Comparisons are made between MCZ 8791 and these adult specimens. The holotype, YPM 5205, and the other associated specimens of this taxon within the YPM collection are similar in size and morphology to AMNH 3015. Further comparisons were made with the three partial specimens OMNH 50268, MCZ 4371, and MOR 1182. Although these specimens represent only a partial ontogenetic series, a number of morphological variations can be described. One secondary goal of this research is to compare the known pattern of variable, informative, ontogenetic characters in MCZ 8791 to a similar pattern of morphological characters in the sub-adult dromaeosaurid specimen Bambiraptor feinbergorum, AMNH FR: 30556. If the characters that have been determined to represent variable juvenile morphology in the ontogeny of Deinonychus are exhibited in Bambiraptor, this study will begin the process of determining whether a similar, conservative, ontogenetic pattern exists throughout the rest of Dromaeosauridae. If defensible, it may reduce the number of sympatric taxa within this clade. The other secondary goal relates to the forelimb function. The approximate body size, forelimb length, wrist development, and the presence of a more prominent olecranon on the ulna of MCZ 8791 support the hypothesis that juveniles of this taxon possessed some form of flight capability.

Concepts: Dinosaur, Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae, Velociraptor, Deinonychus, Deinonychosauria, Dromaeosaurus, Microraptor


The first dromaeosaurid theropod from the Lower Cretaceous Bayan Gobi Formation is identified based on an incompletely preserved partially-articulated left leg, increasing the known diversity of its understudied ecosystem. The leg belongs to specimen IVPP V22530 and includes a typical deinonychosaurian pedal phalanx II-2 with a distinct constriction between the enlarged proximal end and the distal condyle as well as a typical deinonychosaurian enlarged pedal phalanx II-3. It possesses a symmetric metatarsus and a slender and long MT V that together suggest it is a dromaeosaurid. Two anatomical traits suggest the leg is microraptorine-like, but a more precise taxonomic referral was not possible: metatarsals II, III and IV are closely appressed distally and the ventral margin of the medial ligament pit of phalanx II-2 is close to the centre of the rounded distal condyle. This taxonomic status invites future efforts to discover additional specimens at the study locality because-whether it is a microraptorine or a close relative-this animal is expected to make important contributions to our understanding of dromaeosaurid evolution and biology. IVPP V22530 also comprises of an isolated dromaeosaurid manual ungual, a proximal portion of a right theropod anterior dorsal rib and an indeterminate bone mass that includes a collection of ribs. Neither the rib fragment nor the bone mass can be confidently referred to Dromaeosauridae, although they may very well belong to the same individual to whom the left leg belongs.

Concepts: Biology, Foot, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Mongolia, Dromaeosauridae, Velociraptor, Deinonychus


Isolated small theropod teeth are abundant in vertebrate microfossil assemblages, and are frequently used in studies of species diversity in ancient ecosystems. However, determining the taxonomic affinities of these teeth is problematic due to an absence of associated diagnostic skeletal material. Species such as Dromaeosaurus albertensis, Richardoestesia gilmorei, and Saurornitholestes langstoni are known from skeletal remains that have been recovered exclusively from the Dinosaur Park Formation (Campanian). It is therefore likely that teeth from different formations widely disparate in age or geographic position are not referable to these species. Tooth taxa without any associated skeletal material, such as Paronychodon lacustris and Richardoestesia isosceles, have also been identified from multiple localities of disparate ages throughout the Late Cretaceous. To address this problem, a dataset of measurements of 1183 small theropod teeth (the most specimen-rich theropod tooth dataset ever constructed) from North America ranging in age from Santonian through Maastrichtian were analyzed using multivariate statistical methods: canonical variate analysis, pairwise discriminant function analysis, and multivariate analysis of variance. The results indicate that teeth referred to the same taxon from different formations are often quantitatively distinct. In contrast, isolated teeth found in time equivalent formations are not quantitatively distinguishable from each other. These results support the hypothesis that small theropod taxa, like other dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous, tend to be exclusive to discrete host formations. The methods outlined have great potential for future studies of isolated teeth worldwide, and may be the most useful non-destructive technique known of extracting the most data possible from isolated and fragmentary specimens. The ability to accurately assess species diversity and turnover through time based on isolated teeth will help illuminate patterns of evolution and extinction in these groups and potentially others in greater detail than has previously been thought possible without more complete skeletal material.

Concepts: Statistics, Multivariate statistics, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae, Deinonychus, Campanian, Dromaeosaurus


LIDAR-based analyses of the first theropod dinosaur trackways known from the state of Arkansas, USA are reported. The trackways were found on a limestone bedding plane in the Albian De Queen Formation in an active gypsum quarry. Because limited access precluded thorough field study, fieldwork focused on preserving the entire site digitally with ground-based LIDAR, and detailed measurements were later taken digitally from point cloud data. The site contains eight tridactyl trackways associated with sauropod trackways and numerous isolated tracks. Although there appear to be two different tridactyl morphotypes, we show that the tracks are all likely from a single species of trackmaker. We apply a simple method of estimating substrate consistency by comparing the differences between true track dimensions and apparent track dimensions. The tridactyl tracks at the southern end of the site are preserved with significantly greater differences in true vs. apparent dimensions and are shallower than the rest of the tridactyl tracks at the site, which we interpret as the result of outward expansion of the soft tissues of the foot upon contact with a firm substrate. We interpret the firm substrate as having high bulk density and high shear strength, which also explain associated manus-only sauropod tracks. We show that the tridactyl tracks are likely from theropod trackmakers and that footprint lengths, trackway paces, stride lengths, and pace angulations of the De Queen trackways are statistically indistinguishable from equivalent measurements of theropod trackways in the Glen Rose Formation. The Glen Rose tracks are attributed to the large-bodied theropod, Acrocanthosaurus and we likewise attribute the De Queen tracks to Acrocanthosaurus, which is known from skeletal remains in temporally equivalent units and from the mine itself.

Concepts: Track and field athletics, Dinosaur, Saurischia, Theropoda, Deinonychus, Spinosaurus, Trackway, Acrocanthosaurus