More Small Raptors From North America

Everybody loves T. rex—huge, fierce, the apex of all apex species on land.  In recent decades, we’ve learned that T. rex was related to a large and diverse family of animals, large and small.

This spring researchers report a new smaller raptor that lived in North America at the end of the Cretaceous, at the time of the T. rex [3].  Dubbed Dineobellator notohesperus (which is a hacked up reference to “Navajo Warrior of the Southwest” or something like that), this species fills a hole in the fossil record, and shows that there likely were dinosaurs of all sizes flourishing together at that time.

Small, fragile animals are not preserved often in the fossil record, so we know very little about whatever little guys were running around, which makes this find significant.

The new Dineobellator was about 1 meter long (not counting the tail), and probably had feathers.  The researchers suggest that the animals were scrappy hunters and fighters, very fast and flexible.

“These rare fossils have features that suggest raptors were still trying out new ways to compete even during the dinosaurs’ last stand” [2]

There probably were a lot of smaller dinosaurs for every big one that we see in the museum.

Reconstruction of Dineobellator notohesperus and other dinosaurs from the Ojo Alamo Formation at the end of the Cretaceous Period in New Mexico by Sergey Krasovskiy. This reconstruction shows three Dineobellator near a water source, with the ceratopsid Ojoceratops and sauropod Alamosaurus in the background. (Image Credit: Sergey Krasovskiy) (From [2])

  1. Becky Ferreira, Fossils Show Raptors Prowled North America Late in Dinosaurs’ Era, in New York Times. 2020: New York. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/science/raptor-fossil-dinosaurs.html
  2. Brian Handwerk, New Feathered Carnivorous Dinosaur Found in New Mexico, in Smithsonian Magazine, March 26, 2020. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dineobellator-dinosaur-new-mexico-180974511/
  3. Steven E. Jasinski, Robert M. Sullivan, and Peter Dodson, New Dromaeosaurid Dinosaur (Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae) from New Mexico and Biodiversity of Dromaeosaurids at the end of the Cretaceous. Scientific Reports, 10 (1):5105, 2020/03/26 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61480-7

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