Velociraptors and Linheraptor
A new species of dinosaur, a relative of the famous Velociraptor, has been discovered in Inner Mongolia by two PhD students. The exceptionally well preserved dinosaur, named Linheraptor exquisitus, is the first near complete skeleton of its kind to be found in the Gobi desert since 1972, and will help scientists work out the appearance of other closely related dinosaur species. Velociraptor was a mid-sized dromaeosaurid, with adults measuring up to 6.8 feet long, 1.6 feet high at the hip, and weighing up to 33 pounds.
Only two species of Velociraptors have been recognized, although others have been assigned in the past. These are V. mongoliensis and V. osmolskae though there are many other related species. The name is derived from the Latin words velox (swift) and raptor (robber or plunderer) and refers to the animal's running nature and carnivorous diet.
Linheraptor is in the Dromaeosauridae family of the carnivorous theropod dinosaurs and lived during the Late Cretaceous period. In addition to Linheraptor and Velociraptor, theropod dinosaurs include equally famous meat eater Tyrannosaurus Rex as well as modern birds.
The two PhD students, Michael Pittman from UCL (University College London) and Jonah Choiniere from George Washington University (GWU), found the dinosaur sticking out of a cliff face during a field project in Inner Mongolia, China. Their research is published online in the journal Zootaxa.
"Jonah saw a claw protruding from the cliff face. He carefully removed it and handed it to me. We went through its features silently but he wanted my identification first. I told him it was from a carnivorous dinosaur and when he agreed I'm surprised nobody in London heard us shouting," said Michael Pittman, a PhD student in the UCL Department of Earth Sciences who was the co-discoverer of the dinosaur.
At approximately 8 feet long and 55 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 killing claw on the foot, which may have been used to capture prey.
Linheraptor differs from all other dromaeosaurs because of a triangular hole in front of the eye socket called the antorbital fenestra, which is a space in the skull that sinuses would have occupied. In Linheraptor this triangular hole is divided into two cavities — one of which is particularly big.
Velociraptor has become a ubiquitous representation of dinosaurs in popular culture. It has been featured in numerous toy lines, animated films, video games and television series for children, along with several television documentaries. There is even a basketball team called the Raptors in Toronto.
For further information: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/ucl-sdn031710.php or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velociraptor