A better picture of an old ecosystem was formed after a new species of giant winged raptor was found in the Hell Creek Formation, in South Dakota.
- The fossilized remains were found in the Hell Creek Formation, South Dakota
- The dinosaur was named Dakotaraptor, dating back to 66 million years ago
- It was 17 feet in length, with 10 inch-long claws, and had wings
- The Dakotaraptor is the largest dinosaur ever found with wings
A team of researchers uncovered the fossilized remains of an entirely new species of the famous dinosaur. Named Dakotaraptor (Dakotaraptor steini), the extinct animal was unearthed within the Hell Creek Formation, in northwestern South Dakota. It has become a site well known for its discoveries dating between 65 to 70 million years old.
It’s one of the most studied fossil sites, stretching out from northwestern South Dakota to southwestern North Dakota, and even eastern Montana. The Hell Creek Formation has seen many findings, examined by a mix of teams from various universities across multiple states. Now, it has provided us with an exciting new discovery in the form of one of the most popular dinosaur species: the raptors.
Dakotaraptor was said to have been a whopping 17 feet in length, with sharp and dangerous 10 inches long claws. It would’ve made for a frightening size, as the particularly large raptor was “just as agile as the vicious smaller theropods, such as the Velociraptor”, according to lead researcher Robert DePalma.
Carbon dating of the fossilized samples hinted to the massive raptor having lived in the late Cretaceous period, around 66 million years ago. It would’ve been sizeable for its kind, but reportedly very lightweight. Dakotaraptor would have been very fast on its feet, and likely quite the skilled predator.
The new species also presented with interesting features that have gained the attention of many paleontologists across the years: feathers. Researchers found that there were “quill knobs” across its forearms, the clear sign that the dinosaur had wings. This gained it the title as the largest dinosaur ever found with wings, even though it’s unlikely it would’ve flied.
Due to its incredible size, Dakotaraptor would not have been able to take flight. Instead, it has been suggested that the feathers were there just for “display or egg brooding”. However, its smaller ancestors might have evolved with more practical uses of their wings. This particular species though, remained grounded.
According to paleontologist David Burnham, the giant winged raptor successfully “fills the body size gap” between the small-sized theropods, such as the Velociraptor that was the size of a turkey, and the larger tyrannosaurs during that era. It stood in the middle ground, along with its cousin, the Utahraptor, which could’ve grown to 22 feet in length.
In spite of its impressive size, the Dakotaraptor was agile and an exceptional predator, with wings that were probably used to attract mates or care for its eggs. Their kind might be the key and missing gap to understanding the evolution of modern-day birds.
Image source: youtube.com