STL Science Center

STL Science Center

14 November 2012

A Lot of Bones And A Small Dinosaur

Despite lacking almost half (47%) of its characters, Microvenator's type specimen is composed of a large number of bones from all over the body of the animal. Many of these bones are fragmentary or are small parts of larger skeletal apparatuses (such as metacarpals or single disarticulated vertebrae) and thus do not provide much of the greater picture or the defining characters of the animal. The jaw, as discussed, is such an incomplete sliver of the animal that it has been interpreted multiple ways; chiefly as either overtly Oviraptoran or completely Maniraptoran in appearance. To add confusion, initially, to the problematic shape of the lone skull fragment, Barnum Brown included what were later discovered to be Deinonychus teeth as examples of Microvenator teeth. We of course know that this is not true now that we know they belong to Deinonychus, but it leaves us with questions about whether Microvenator had teeth, as a transitional early Maniraptoran or a toothless beak as a primitive Oviraptoran dinosaur. The hands, as opposed to the jaw fragment, are reminiscent of later Oviraptorids as well as possessing characters from earlier Caenagnathids, lending more credence to the thought that this animal is a basal ancestor of the Oviraptorids. This may in turn lead to more definitive structuring of the jaw elements, though further concrete discoveries of Microvenator skulls would be infinitely preferable in terms of accurately describing the structure of Microvenator's skull. Hopefully sometime in the future an entire Microvenator will be discovered or at least weather out and be noticed somewhere along the Cloverly where the initial discovery was made by Brown in 1933, but until that time we will have to cope with an apparent lack of material to support the existence of this rather small, and primitive, Oviraptorid/advanced Caenagnathid.

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