Fossilized winged giant raptor found in South Dakota represents a major discovery bridging an evolutionary gap of the Cretaceous Laramidia Landscape.
Part of the dromaeosaurid family, this giant raptor fossil is truly an exciting finding. The expedition, led by the curator of vertebrate paleontology with the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History, Robert DePalma took the team to South Dakota. The fossil was unearthed from the Hell Creek Formation and has now been named Dakotaraptor.
If nothing else, the raptors of Jurassic Park are sufficiently familiar to provide us with a starting point to imagine the size of the Dakotaraptor. The paper describing the giant raptor and published in the Paleontological Contributions journal stated that Dakotaraptor would have been 16 feet-long from head to tail. With sickle-like claws measuring 10 inches, the fast dromaeosaurid would have been a fierce predator as well.
The fossilized winged giant raptor found in South Dakota also completes a gap between the large predators of the time, the tyrannosaurs and smaller theropods. The fossil has been dated to 66 million years ago. Describing the Dakotaraptor, the authors stated:
“This Cretaceous period raptor would have been lightly built and probably just as agile as the vicious smaller theropods, such as the Velociraptor”.
Upon analysing the fossil, the research team found ulnar papilli or what is termed as quill knobs on the ulna of the giant raptor. Quill knobs are a stand out clue to the existence of feather quills on the forearm of the Cretaceous Dakotaraptor.
While most dromaeosaurids found to date are small to medium size, Dakotaraptor is truly a giant in the landscape. Until now, only one other raptor of North America has been known to grow to such proportions.
The Hell Creek giant raptor is the first to be recorded to this region and the first to present quill knobs. Their functional morphology hasn’t been determined. However, due to its size, the Dakotaraptor couldn’t have used them for flight.
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