Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dino Diagnosis of the Day #1

Brian has Picture of the Day, and Darren has...well, Picture of the Day, too. I'm trying something different! Dinosaur Diagnosis of the Day! On occassion I will go into my closet full of paleo papers and pull out the description of some mesozoic dinosaur. I'd like to turn this into a game, as Darren originally did. We'll see how strong a response this maiden description gets.

Ready? Guess the beastie!

"Small to medium-sized theropods, lightly built and bipedal in posture. Fore limb not reduced. Manus long and slender with three functional digits, Digit III moderately divergent and carpus highly specialized with asymmetrical ginglymus on radiale. Hind limb long, pes of moderate length and functionally didactyl. Digit II modified as an offensive or predatory weapon with large, trenchant claw. Digits III and IV of subequal and normal, digits I and V reduced. Eight to 9 cervical vertebrae, 13 to 14 dorsals and 3 to 4 sacrals. Caudal series of ________ highly modified by extremely long prezygapophyseal and chevron processes which rendered the tail virtually inflexible throughout most of its length. Comparable caudal modifications are presumed, but not known, in other taxa referred to the family."

That's all quoted directly from the original description. Give it a shot, folks--who be it?

EDIT: Chris Taylor is our winner, correctly identifying the mystery taxon as Deinonychus antirrhopus. I should have picked somebody a little more derived! I wanted to do a dromaeosaur, but Chris was right in pointing out that, in 1969, these now ho-hum deinonychosaur features were diagnostic back then. Nowadays this description could apply to just about any deinonychosaur, including Troodon, Velociraptor, Sinornitholestes, Buitreraptor, etc. Our ideas of "small to medium-sized" have changed, too. Back in the day, Compsognathus was considered tiny. Deinonychus was 12 feet long and Ostrom considered it "small to medium-sized!"

1 comment:

Christopher Taylor said...

"Digit II modified as an offensive or predatory weapon with large, trenchant claw" is a giveaway for Dromaeosauridae, I think. Now, given that it would have to have been described when there were few enough dromaeosaurids known that the suite of characters listed (which sound pretty generally dromaeosaurid) were still regarded as diagnostic, I'm going to have a stab at... Deinonychus antirrhopus?