STL Science Center

STL Science Center

03 February 2018

Neovenator Family Expansion

©Julio Lacerda, commisioned by
the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
In 2013 Lindsay Zanno and Peter Mackovicky described and named a fossil from Utah of a theropod dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous around 98.5 million years ago, making it slightly older than Tyrannosaurus rex. This large predator, Siats meekerorum, filled the role between its gracile cousin Allosaurus and the heavyweight Tyrannosaurus on the North American landscape. The animal is important for a number of different reasons, including, and maybe foremost, showing that allosauroid theropod predators remained dominant from the Jurassic when Allosaurus began to out compete dinosaurs like Ceratosaurus nasicornis until the very Late Cretaceous when dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus began to out compete Siats and other predatory dinosaurs contemporaneously living in North America. Siats also fills the role of apex predator in the region during its fossil record, not that there was any shortage of predators from Utah during this time; dromaeosaurs like Achillobator and Deinonychus were also stalking prey around this time. One of the problems with this animal, as we will see during the week, is that the fossil possesses characteristics that reveal that it may be an immature specimen, and naming new species from juvenile skeletons is not ideal, though it is not unprecedented and, in a number of cases, not unwarranted either. Regardless, this week we will go over what remains were found, what they look like, and what we know about Siats meekerorum, a predator from Utah named after a Ute myth about a human-eating monster.

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