Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Boreonykus certekorum: A new species of Velociraptorine Dromaeosaur from the Late Cretaceous of west-cemtral Alberta.

Dromaeosaurs are thought to have been the group of Theropod Dinosaurs most closely related to birds, making them of great interest to palaeontologists. They were smal-to-medium sized predatory Dinosaurs, which all appear to have had extensive featheres plumage, and some forms are believed to have evolved flight independently of the Birds. However most species appear to have been fast running ground predators likely to have brought down prey with the enlarged claws on their second toes,claws which give the group their popular name 'Raptors' ('Raptor' means claw in Latin, and also serves to highlight their similarity to Birds, as Birds of Prey are also known as 'Raptors', while 'Dromaeosaur' derives from Greek and means 'Running Lizard'). Dromaeosaurs appear to have been present on every continent rom the Middle Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous, and as mostly small animals are thought likely to have had high rates of species turnover, howver their small size and fragile skeletons mean that specimens are rare, and generally cosist of either fragmentary bones or isolated teeth or claws, making studies of the groups true diversity and range difficult.

In a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on  18 December 2015, Phil Bell of the School of Environmental and Rural Science at the University of New England and Philip Currie of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta describe a new species of Dromaeosuaur from the Late Cretaceous Pipestone Creek Bonebed (part of the Wapati Formation) near Grand Prairie in west-central Alberta.

The new species is named Boreonykus certekorum, where 'Boreonykus' means 'Boreal Claw' in reference to the Boreal Forests that cover the area where it was found ('onykus' is Greek for 'claw') and 'certekorum' honours Certek Heating Solutions and the Barendregt family for their support of palaeontology in the Peace region of western Canada.

The species is described from fragmentary material found in a bonebed comprising largely bones of the Ceratopsid Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, but with material from other species present. The material, which is nt thought to come from a single individual, comprises a right frontal bone (i.e. the bone that would form the right half of the forehead in a Human), two claws, one from the right hand and one from the left foot, a caudal (tail) vertebra and a number of fragmentary teeth.

Boreonykus certekorum, left pedal ungual II-3. (A) Lateral and (B) medial views. Bell & Currie (2015).

Boreonykus certekorum is considered to be a member of the Velociraptorinae, a group of Dromaeosuars largely know from Asia, expanding our knowledge of North American members of this group. The identification of this material as represnting a new and distinct species also adds to the emerging picture of a distictive fauna being present in west-central Alberta in the Late Cretaceous, distinct from the faunas of southern Alberta and Montana to the south or Alaska to the west, but forming a conection between them.

See also... Dromaeosaur remains from the Early Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia.          Dromaeosaurs are thought to have been the Dinosaur group most closely related to the earliest Birds, making them of great interest to palaeontologists... steini: A giant, feathered Dromaeosaurid from the End Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota. Dromaeosaurids were first described in the 1920s, but received relatively little attention from palaeontologists until the late 1960s. However in recent years it has been realized that the group were... suni: A large feathered Dromaeosaur from the Jehol Biota. Dromaeosaurid Dinosaurs are among the closest non-Avian relatives of the Birds and show many similarities to the earliest members of that group, making understanding Dromaeosaurs important for understanding the origin of Birds. In particular...

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