In this picture you see a cast of the skeleton of the new raptor dinosaur Linheraptor exquisitus. I discovered the fossil of Linheraptor with Michael Pittman, a graduate student at the University College of London, while we were hunting for fossils in red sandstone rocks in Inner Mongolia, a province in northern China.
I was walking along a cliff when I saw the sharp tip of a claw poking out of the rock. Michael and I quickly started to dig at the edge of the cliff, and we kept exposing more bones.
We guessed then that we had found something important, but it wasn't until the specimen was taken back to Beijing and prepared in the lab that we knew we had found a new species of raptor.
Xu Xing of the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing led an international research team (including Michael and me) that reported this exciting conclusion.
Linheraptor was about six feet long, probably weighed around 50 pounds, and lived approximately 75 million years ago. Like most other dromaeosaurids (the scientific name for raptor dinosaurs), it has a large claw on the second toe of its foot and a tail stiffened by long bony rods that project from the vertebrae.
Linheraptor is important because it preserves almost every bone in the body. Scientists can get information from its skeleton that they can't get from the incomplete fossil skeletons of other dromaeosaurids.
This information can be used as evidence for how features like the foot claw evolved, and it can also be used to improve our understanding of how dromaeosaurids were related to birds.
The environment Linheraptor lived in was similar to the conditions in Inner Mongolia today: a dry habitat with occasional sand dunes. Linheraptor might have preyed on small relatives of Triceratops called Protoceratops, which would have been very common and sometimes nested in the dunes.
Amazingly, there are at least five other species of raptor dinosaur known from this area and time period, meaning that Linheraptor would have faced some serious competition from other dromaeosaurids, including Velociraptor.
Read more about the discovery here.
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