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Fossils Of a New Giant Feathered Raptor Unearthed In South Dakota

Nov 05, 2015 01:33 PM EST
Researchers recently uncovered fossils representing the largest known feathered raptor. The species has since been named Dakotaraptor.
(Photo : University of Kansas )

Fossils of a new, feathered raptor dubbed Dakotaraptor (Dakotaraptor steini) were recently excavated from South Dakota's famous Hell Creek Formation. This new dinosaur represents the largest feathered raptor known to have ever roamed the Earth 66 million years ago.

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Kansas (KU) examined newly discovered fossils and found that its bones contained quill knobs, the base point where feathers would have once been attached to the creature's forearm, according to the university's news release.

The study was led by Robert DePalma, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History. In addition to finding quill knobs, researchers also concluded that the animals were about 17 feet long from nose to tail and their wings could have extended three feet from their bodies. The only known raptor larger than the Dakotaraptor was the 23-foot Utahraptor.

"This Cretaceous period raptor would have been lightly built and probably just as agile as the vicious smaller theropods, such as the Velociraptor," De Palma explained in the release.

Raptors are known for their speed, and the Dakotaraptor is no different. Fossils of the new species indicate the animals had long powerful legs that made them fast runners, providing them with a predatory and escape advantage. 

While the Dakotaraptor was too large for flight, the presence of quill knobs suggests the animals were evolving closer to modern birds. 

Their study was recently published in the journal Paleontological Contributions.   

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