01 September 2010

Link: New Dinosaur may be Closest Relative to Modern Birds!

As a kid, when most other kids wanted to become pop stars or actresses or astronauts, I wanted to be a paleontologist. A part of me regrets not following that path in life, but I can still get excited when a new dinosaur is discovered!

Left leg and foot of Balaur bondoc.
Credit: Mick Ellison; Zoltan Csiki;
Matyas Vremir; Stephan Brusatte;
Mark Norell; AMNH
Last month, paleontologists in Transylvania described a new dinosaur from fossils dug up in September of last year. They called the dinosaur Balaur bondoc, which basically means "stocky dragon" and is part of the dromaeosaurid theropod group, which also includes velociraptor and deinonychus. They are also the group of dinosaurs that spawned the line of modern birds. This new dinosaur has some morphological differences from other theropods, including two large foot claws, opposed to other raptors' single large claw. Balaur's hand bones are heavily fused, with only two working digits, which is believed to be an evolutionary precursor to modern birds' wings. These, among other features, make paleontologists believe that Balaur is the closest known relative to modern birds.

Very Cool.

A "stocky dragon" from Transylvania.

Beefy dino sported fearsome claws.

Balaur bondoc: A raptor unlike any you have ever seen.

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