STL Science Center

STL Science Center

10 December 2013

Writing About the Terror

©Emily Willoughby
The definitive description of Deinonychus material was penned by John Ostrom in 1969 and was published in that July as a 172 page edition of the Yale Peabody Museum Bulletin. Description of the materials are rigorous and make up nearly 135 pages of the bulletin with only about 20 pages discussing the habits and placement of Deinonychus. A more in detail description of anything would be difficult to find, but our vast knowledge of the skeletal material and composition of Deinonychus comes from this absolute tome. Since that time there have been many other studies of Deinonychus including predator-prey taphonomy studies and studies of pack hunting and gregarious habits amongst members of the species. As noted Saturday studies have been conducted on the use of the noted and infamous claw of Deinonychus (and other Dromaeosaurids) but little mention has been made of studies concerning the forelimbs of these animals. Senter 2006 explored the comparisons of forelimbs of Deinonychus and Bambiraptor and determined a number of interesting outcomes from manually manipulating the forelimbs. One important outcome of the study is the knowledge that Bambiraptor had the ability to grasp things one-handed while Deinonychus did not have the dexterity to do so. Bite force has been calculated for Deinonychus as well, leading to a nearly completed picture of this dinosaur from head to tail and inside out.

The egg mentioned previously is, however, a "new" and important discovery. The egg is actually associated with gastralia from a 1931 dig and, as such, is not actually new, but has not been studied in depth until recently (some may be able to generate the full pdf through EBSCO).  The egg is small and crushed, but shares many characters with known theropod eggs and is confidently placed between oviraptorid and troodontid egg characters, making its likelihood of being representative of Deinonychus, and therefore one of the first recovered Dromaeosaurid, eggs much more likely. Preservation of the shell itself is considered to be phenomenal and the images taken from the egg by various means including high resolution microscopic images, are astounding. The fact that the authors determined it to be associated with the adult skeleton makes the find that much more remarkable and, with certainty, we can now say that we have recovered the first Dromaeosaurid (and Deinonychus) incubating an egg as well as the first egg of its kind. It makes the image at the top of today's entry seem that much more relevant.

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