August 31, 2010

Two-Clawed Velociraptor Relative Found In Romania

A team of paleontologists from the University of Bucharest and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) have discovered an unusual new type of dinosaur that is related to the Velociraptor, but with stockier limbs and a pair of massive claws on each of its hind feet.

The researchers, who were working in Romania, were able to recover leg, hip, back, arms, hand, rib, and tail bones, making this "the first reasonably complete skeleton of a meat-eating dinosaur from the final 60 million years of the Age of Dinosaurs in Europe," according to an AMNH press release.

The dinosaur, which has been dubbed "Balaur bondoc" or "stocky dragon", is said to have been between six and seven feet long, and the scientists believe that it was able to extend one of its claws in order to attack prey. Velociraptors had just a single claw on each of their feet.

The findings, which were unearthed in Romania by geologist Mátyás Vremir of the Transylvanian Museum Society, were published on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a publication of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We've all been waiting for something like this, and the wait has yielded an interesting surprise," Mark Norell, co-author of the PNAS paper and the chairman of the AMNH's Division of Paleontology, said. "B. bondoc is heavy, with unexpectedly stocky limbs and fused bones. It shows just how unusual the fauna of the area was during the waning years of the dinosaur era."

"Balaur might be one of the largest predators in this ecosystem because not even a big tooth has been found in Romania after over a hundred years of research," added co-author Zoltán Csiki of the University of Bucharest. "Fragmentary remains of Balaur were already known for more than 10 years, but the morphology is so weird we didn't have any idea where to fit them."


Image Caption: The fossilized hindlimb of Balaur bondoc  shows the double-sickle claws of the foot, one of 20 unique features found on the animal, which lived on a Late Cretaceous island in what is now Europe. Credit: Mick Ellison


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