Oldest Southern Dromeosaur

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Oldest southern Dromeosaur found as reported in Nature, vol 437, p1007 and Scientific American News, 13 October 2005. Peter Makovcky of the Field Museum Chicago and two South American colleagues have found the oldest dromeosaur in South America. Dromeosaurs are small bipedal dinosaurs, often described as being fast birdlike carnivores. Prior to this discovery dromeosaurs had only been found in the northern hemisphere in western USA and China, so palaeontologists believed they evolved after the super-continents of Laurasia and Gondwana split up. Lurasia is believed to have given rise to North America and much of Asia; Gondwana is believed to have given rise to South America, Australia and Antarctica.

Makovcky's team claim the newly found fossil indicates dromeosaurs evolved before the super-continental split, making them 20 million years older than the oldest known dromeosaurs. The new specimen has been named Buitreraptor gonzalezorum and was found in Upper Cretaceous rocks dated at 90 million years old. The creature had the distinctive features of dromeosaurs, including an enlarged claw on the second toe of both feet, although it had a longer, narrower snout, small widely spaced non-serrated teeth and a long tail. The article shows photographs and descriptions of the skull, pelvis, vertebrae and limb bones. On the cover of Nature is an artist's reconstruction of the creature's head, covered with hair and a beak-like snout covered with scales. It is holding a small dead reptile in its "beak". The reptile is described in the caption as a "juvenile Prispenodon, a relative of the living tuatara, and another relict of a group with a global Jurassic distribution."

Editorial Comment: The bones found are the facts here, and the one thing they prove is that this creature existed. Bones do provide evidence about body mass and musculature, so some reasonable deductions can be made about how the creature moved. However, none of the creature's skin or stomach contents was preserved, so the idea that it was covered with hair and ate ancestral tuataras for breakfast is pure speculation. Also the creature described here is a fully formed, distinctive dinosaur that appeared suddenly in the fossil record and seems to have died out just as suddenly, which provides no evidence for evolution, but fits Biblical history of separately created kinds that reproduced after their kind until they died out. The difference between the actual fossils found and the Nature cover illustration is a good example of the difference between facts and faith. (Ref. dinosaur, bones, dragon )

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