STL Science Center

STL Science Center

25 July 2012

Weird Anatomy?

Buitreraptor is noticeably different from the Laurasian, or Northern, dromaeosaurs, as are all Southern, or Gondwanan, dromaeosaurs. That makes sense though; large birds have evolved in Australia as well as Africa but they are very different also, as one of many many living examples. Regardless, this small chicken sized dinosaur was very different from what we visualize when we think of "raptors" from North America and Asia. The differences stick out from first glance in some prominent ways, the most prominent being the shape of the body, nose to tail. Buitreraptor is shaped like other dromaeosaurs, however, it looks as though it was laid on its side and gently pressed flat compared to other robust and deep faced and barreled chested raptors like Utahraptor or Deinonychus. The skull and the torso of Buitreraptor are very thin and elongated by dromaeosaur standards. That skull also houses different teeth; grooved recurve teeth are there instead of the expected serrated and meat tearing teeth of other dromaeosaurs. Obviously there was a reason for the body to take shape in this way, but as of yet there are conjectures and theories, but no single "Aha!" idea. The fact that two of the original four found skeletons remain undescribed probably has something to do with that, though not as much as the fact that this is an extinct dinosaur; more description helps of course, but we have to remember it can only take us so far before a little educated guessing from environmental context clues and, dare I say it of scientists?, a little bit of a healthy imagination also.

He may be tiny, but I've been chased by a rooster, and
it had fewer weapons and I was still scared like a little girl
As far as the feathers of Buitreraptor are concerned, so far, that is an educated guess based on other raptors. There has been no evidence unearthed thus far that points toward the inclusion of feathers on a Buitreraptor frame. It's not a bad guess though, considering the evidence found on other dromaeosaurs, but we also have to remember this was an animal that evolved in the Late Cretaceous far away from those other raptors and as such may be vastly different even where feathers are concerned. Another thing that is strange about Buitreraptor is that its toes and fingers aren't we have come to expect from dromaeosaurs either. In fact, the hands of Buitreraptor have three fingers that are almost all the same length, which is very strange for a dromaeosaur, along with the arms being shorter than its cousin's arms. That killing claw on the foot we expect to be large, curved, and thin like a knife blade was actually somewhat broad and much shorter proportionately to those of larger dromaeosaurs. All said and done the anatomy of this dinosaur was rather unique and very interesting as well as not very well understood yet.

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