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Large fossil footprints point to discovery of new ‘megaraptor’ dinosaur: Study

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(NEW YORK) — Although the velociraptors of “Jurassic Park” fame are well known, they don’t much resemble their historical counterparts.


The movie velociraptors are portrayed as being 6 feet tall with scaly skin and incredibly fast, but real velociraptors were about as big as a medium-sized dog, measuring approximately 1.6 feet high and between 4.8 and 6.8 feet across, scientists say. They also moved slower and may have been feathered.

However, scientists believe they may have discovered a relative of the velociraptor that was two to three times larger– a “megaraptor” — which is closer in size to the film depiction, according to a new study published this week.

“When [Steven] Spielberg made ‘Jurassic Park’, he blew up the velociraptors to make them scary. Real velociraptors are — say — about the size of coyotes,” Dr. W. Scott Persons, a paleontologist at the College of Charleston and curator of the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History and one of the study’s authors, told ABC News. “Yes, our animal is on par with the way raptors are depicted by Hollywood.”

A large group of dinosaur tracks, about 240, were discovered in winter 2020 on the outskirts of Longyan in the Fujian province, in southeastern China, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal iScience published by Elsevier.

“The giant raptor tracks were found as part of a much larger track site excavation,” Persons said. “At this locality, we’ve got this huge mud stone deposit that is littered with all kinds of different dinosaur footprints, including lots of big herbivorous dinosaurs, lots of small herbivorous dinosaurs, several normal size raptors, and then they’re the really big ones that just happened to be preserved there as well.”

The team came across well-preserved tracks, about 14 inches long, which were unusual because the footprint featured just two toes.

Persons said it is not usual to find a dinosaur footprint with one of the toes missing because the preservation of tracks is often incomplete.

“But to have a whole left, right, left, right, left, right series of footprints, that’s always missing the same toe on each foot is really unusual. And that is the telltale marker of the footprint of a dinosaur or a raptor dinosaur,” he said.

The footprints are unique to raptors because their recognized curved claws were kept off the ground.

The team determined the track were likely made by a relative of the velociraptor, which they’ve named Fujianipus yingliangi.

Based on the footprints, the team was able to estimate Fujianipus was about 15 feet in total length, about two to three times the total length of the velociraptor.

The team is hoping to keep working in the area to hopefully discover some skeletal material from the “megaraptor” and to pinpoint when it might have lived and what other animals might have existed during that time.

Persons said there is another way that the new raptor is more similar to the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park” than the real-life velociraptors were.

“The velociraptors in ‘Jurassic Park’ are credited with being really, really fast, and it’s true — velociraptor is not an animal you could outrun,” he said. “But the true Adonis is the group that our animal belongs to, they’re the fastest of the raptors. They’ve got the longest shin bones and the longest foot bones out there. That equates to them covering more ground with every step. These are the real speedsters of the raptor family tree.”
 

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