Footprints in China point to a new megaraptor that roamed with the dinosaurs

An international team of researchers has estimated that fossilized footprints found in China were left by a dinosaur that would have been among the largest birds of prey ever discovered.

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The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were oversized and merciless killing machines.

The stuff of nightmares, yes. Reality stuff? Not much.

Scientific research has long believed that real dinosaurs were a far cry from the predatory monsters depicted in the film series, and they are no longer the case. Much larger than wolves And covered in Not scary feathers.

But a team of paleontologists said they may have identified a close cousin of Velociraptor, called Megaraptor, that is much closer in size to the dinosaurs depicted in movies. In fact, the international team of researchers estimated that the fossilized footprints found in China were left by a dinosaur that would be among the largest birds of prey ever discovered.

Although it may dwarf the raptors in the movie Jurassic Park, researcher Anthony Romelio said the creature has some key differences from its fictional counterpart.

“When people think of raptors, they probably think of the ones in the Jurassic Park movies – human-sized, muscular, aggressive hunters,” says Romelio, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland. He said in a statement. “But these traces were left by a smaller, more intelligent group in the Velociraptor family.”

Preserved footprints found in 2020 in China

The researchers said that the relics are among more than 240 footprints discovered in 2020 in an area in southeastern China where dinosaurs roamed tens of millions of years ago.

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The researchers found a set of five tracks measuring more than 13 inches long, instantly recognizable because the footprints appeared on only two toes, a unique trait for birds of prey.

“We found that this type of track is distinctive in shape, which makes it quite unique,” ​​Romelio said.

The team determined that the footprints were likely made by a relative of the dinosaur, which they named Fujianipus yingliangi as a nod to the Fujian province where the tracks were found.

Based on the size of the tracks, it is estimated that the creature was about six feet long and 15 feet long. This is about two to three times the total length of Velociraptor, making it among the largest known birds of prey.

Megaraptor roamed during the Cretaceous period

Finding fossilized bones would provide researchers with more knowledge about the exact shape of the animal and the extent of its impact.

But the team said they had collected enough to determine that Megaraptor was a dinosaur, a family of dinosaurs with long legs that reached nearly six feet in length, far exceeding the sizes of other known raptors. Bird-like raptors existed during the Cretaceous period about 145 to 66 million years ago, a few million years younger than the Jurassic period.

Its size makes Fujianipus a relative oddity among its brethren of birds of prey that have mostly remained small.

“It just shows the amazing size range among raptor dinosaurs, highlighting their adaptability and environmental diversity,” Romelio said.

the Research is published In iScience magazine.

Eric Lagata covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected]

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