STL Science Center

STL Science Center

16 September 2011

The Running Lizard

We're back in Alberta again this week, talking about Dromaeosaurus albertensis. Dromaeosaurus is the dinosaur which lent its name out to all the other little raptors that have become favorites of children everywhere as dromaeosaurines or dromaeosaurids. Besides that, however, Dromaeosaurus is one of the larger maniraptorans that we know of; of course all of the North American maniraptors are fairly large compared to their Asian counterparts. The size of a wolf and probably weighing in at around 33 pounds, the 65.5 million year old Dromaeosaurus was a deadly addition to the Cretaceous landscape which was already home to Tyrannosaurus, Albertosaurus, and other large carnivores and heavily armored ceratopsians. Canada and the United States, at the time, in fact, were an evolutionary battleground of weaponry and, as such, Dromaeosaurus fits in very nicely.

Dromaeosaurus fit into a much needed niche of a small dominant predator. Surely Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus had the market covered on large predators at the time but every animal needs the danger of predation at every stage of life in the natural world and Dromaeosaurus was very good at endangering both smaller juveniles and infants as well as full grown adults of animals, thanks to pack hunting doctrines, in the more heavily wooded areas where a large predator could not go. Built for a fair amount of speed Dromaeosaurs could also chase down some of the fleeter footed prey of the age as well. Dromaeosaurus wasn't just dangerous from its feet and hands, it also had a bite three times as powerful as its smaller cousin Velociraptor, making it deadlier all around and indicating that the claws on feet and hand were not as important as the mouth of Dromaeosaurus.

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