A New Species of Raptor Dinosaur Discovered in Inner Mongolia, China
A new species of raptor dinosaur being named "Linheraptor exquisitus" has been discovered by George Washington University doctoral candidate Jonah Choiniere and Michael D. Pittman, a graduate student at University College London. The exceptionally well-preserved, nearly complete skeleton is a relative of the well-known species "Velociraptor," and will help scientists further describe the physical appearance of other closely-related dinosaurs within the Dromaeosauridae family. The research, led by Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, was published in the March 19, 2010, issue of "Zootaxa." “I only saw the tip of the claw sticking out of a cliff face, and it was a total surprise that the whole skeleton was buried deeper in the rock,” said Mr. Choiniere. “This fossil is going to tell us a lot about the evolution of the skeleton in the group that includes ’Velociraptor’.” At approximately eight feet long and 50 pounds, the researchers believe "Linheraptor" would have been a fast, agile predator that preyed on small horned dinosaurs related to "Triceratops." Like other dromaeosaurids, it possessed a large, highly curved claw on the foot, which may have been used to capture prey. Within the Dromaeosauridae family, "Linheraptor" is most closely related to another recently discovered species "Tsaagan mangas." The head and neck of the "Tsaagan" skeleton was discovered in Mongolia in 1993 by James Clark, the Ronald B. Weintraub Professor of Biology at The George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. "Tsaagan’s" skull indicates that it is more primitive than "Velociraptor," and the skeleton of the new species should help reconstruct the series of evolutionary changes within the Dromaeosauridae. “This is a really beautiful fossil and it documents a transitional stage in dromaeosaurid evolution,” said Dr. Xu.