A jumbo raptor once roamed South Dakota, say scientists

Dakotaraptor, which roamed present-day South Dakota some 66 million years ago, is one of the biggest raptors yet unearthed.

Courtesy of Robert DePalma
An artist's rendering of the new dinosaur species, Dakotaraptor steini.

A new dinosaur discovered in South Dakota may break the raptor scale.

Dubbed Dakotaraptor steini, the new animal is one of the most massive of its kind. Researchers think the raptor stretched about 17 feet long when it lived some 66 million years ago.

Researchers describe the raptor, one of a family of swift, birdlike dinosaurs that thrived in the Cretaceous Period, in a paper published Oct. 30 in Paleontological Contributions.

Dakotaraptor may have been massive for a raptor, but its size lies right between those of two groups of dinosaurs.

“This new predatory dinosaur also fills the body size gap between smaller theropods and large tyrannosaurs that lived at this time,” paleontologist and study co-author David Burnham said in a news release.

Despite its size, Dakotaraptor had some similar physical features as smaller raptors.

“This Cretaceous period raptor would have been lightly built and probably just as agile as the vicious smaller theropods, such as the Velociraptor,” lead author Robert DePalma said.

Like the famed Velociraptor, the Dakotaraptor specimen appeared to have once had feathers on its forearms. 

The new fossil seemed to have “quill knobs,” a feature that shows where feathers would have been attached. 

Does that mean it could fly?

Quill knobs are “a derived character related to flight that were once thought exclusive to birds,” the authors write in their paper. 

But, they write, “The size and proportions of Dakotaraptor almost certainly preclude its potential for flight.” 

“Rather, it is more plausible that Dakotaraptor descended from an evolutionary line that already possessed flight or that was already sufficiently close to attaining it that it had evolved a suite of advanced adaptations for its facilitation,” suggesting that Dakotaraptor could help fill in the blanks when it comes to scientists’ understanding of the evolution of flight and flightnessness.

Dakotaraptor was found at the Hell Creek Formation, a spot scientists have flocked to, finding many dinosaur fossils. The formation stretches across four states, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. 

This new discovery could change researchers’ perspective of the region's prehistory.

As these researchers write, “The discovery of Dakotaraptor drastically revises our view of the Hell Creek fauna by introducing a particularly large, feathered, predatory animal into the late Cretaceous paleoecology.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A jumbo raptor once roamed South Dakota, say scientists
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/1104/A-jumbo-raptor-once-roamed-South-Dakota-say-scientists
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe